Howard Norman is employed by a museum to travel to Churchill, Winnipeg, Canada to transcribe Inuit folktales into English. There he meets Helen, who is essentially doing the same thing, except translating into Japanese. Helen has a better command for the language and gets along much better with Mark, the person who they are hearing the folktales from. From the beginning we learn that Helen has stomach cancer and Norman uses the book to explain the impact Helen, Mark, and the folktales have made on his life.
Throughout the book are about 10 Inuit folktales that Norman has translated. Each of them have to do with Noah's ark and what happened when Noah sailed into Hudson's Bay. While I found the first one very interesting, all of them were very similar, making me feel like I was reading the same thing over and over again. Perhaps for the sake of not boring the reader, Norman could have cut down the number of tales he wrote in.
I have no doubt that some people may love this book, but it just didn't do it for me. I was having troubles following Norman because he was delving too deep and getting too philosophical for me. Furthermore, I found some of the exchanges between him and Helen just plain weird.
First Line: "On November 8, 1977, in the Halifax train station a few minutes before boarding a train for Montreal, Helen Tanizaki handed me a letter from the afterlife."