Daughter Father Canoe; Coming of age in the sub-arctic and other
stories of Snowdrift River and Nonacho Lake by
I met Rob Kesselring, the author of this book, on a barren land river. That was in 1996 and since then I kept in touch with him. When he first told me, on the shores of the Finnie River, that he wintered on the edge of the barrens once, I was eager to hear more from him. I wanted to hear more stories, but, far too soon, a plane came to pick up his party. OK, we spend a few days together but there was really no time for story telling, since we were busy with "moskitoe contests" and killing Ptarmigans with rocks.
Just recently, I heard that, after many years of writing, he finally finished his book on the Snowdrift River trip, he did with his daughter Lara in 1993. So, I ordered the book!
The Book: The main theme of the book is a 4 week trip down the Snowdrift River. However, the trip itself is just the backbone for the real story that describes the complex relationship or connection between Lara and Rob. Lara, then 14 years old, is Robs daughter.
Who would take his 14 year old daughter on a canoe trip into the wilderness of NWT to come of age?
The daughter-father relationship started in Fort Resolution, NWT, in the late 70ies. Rob was working as a teacher in a school, mainly teaching natives. Reading the book, you will notice that the years the author spent in the north play a key role in his life. Indeed, the north was always with him, he never really left. Therefore it is quite natural that the whole book accumulates a lot of northern stories written with a phantastic easiness. Once you note that, you have the answer for the above question.
Rob gives a quite intimate view of the relationship that was building between him and his daughter and was chiefly influenced by their wilderness trip. The book is not a trip report! And this is exactly what I like most about the book. At the same time, it is strikingly clear that the NWT wilderness was the only place where the bonding could have taken place. The wilderness was the fertile ground to strengthen the relation between both and build up self-confidence in Lara.
Everybody who went on a long wilderness trip, knows this phenomenon. To experience nature gives you a deep insight into your own soul and you open up and are able to connect. Once you get back, you realize that it was more than seeing great scenery and crystel clear water.
I highly recommend reading this book. It won't take long and you might find yourself intentionally slowing you down, just to make it last longer. Besides "A death on the Barrens", by George Grinell, "Daughter Father Canoe" is my favorite book of the last years. I read it twice.