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Rankin Inlet: a novel
Author promotes new book Rankin during visit

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 19, 2010

RANKIN INLET - Former Winnipegger Mara Feeney returned to Rankin Inlet for the first time in 11 years earlier this month, to visit old friends and promote her first novel, titled Rankin Inlet.

NNSL photo/graphic

Mara Feeney and Michael Kusugak display copies of their recent work during Feeney's booksigning at the Kivalliq Regional Visitor Centre at the Rankin Inlet airport earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Sara Acher

The author donated a copy to the John Ayaruaq Library in Rankin, and held a special book-signing session at the Kivalliq Regional Visitor Centre at the local airport.

In Feeney's debut novel, a young British woman leaves home to take a position as a nurse-midwife in a remote Canadian Arctic community. Through her diary entries and correspondence, we see, through her eyes, a remarkable place and the people who inhabit it.

Feeney, 73, spent a number of years in the North as an employee with the housing authority of the day. She first came to Rankin as a summer student with the Arctic Research and Training Centre in 1970. The experience hooked Feeney on Northern life and she returned every summer while earning a degree in anthropology. Once she even wrote brochures on every Kivalliq community for tourists and people who would be moving to the region.

Feeney went to work with the Government of the Northwest Territories after graduating, and returned to Rankin as the region's first regional housing director. She now lives in San Francisco, where she runs a small consulting business.

Feeney began concentrating on art when she turned 50, taking up painting and creative writing.

She said she was writing a series of stories about California when, one day, she realized she had to write about a unique place in time in Rankin Inlet.

"My book covers the 20th century and the remarkable changes that happened, from the DEW Line to nickel mining in Rankin," said Feeney. "A whole generation of people went through the transition of being hunters and gatherers to suddenly becoming wage earners.

"Some of the characters live in the Rankin of the 1970s, when there were no telephones, TVs or motorized vehicles.

"The novel ends with the creation of Nunavut."

Feeney said nobody has approached her, yet, to say they recognize any of the characters in her book. She said she was quite careful about fictionalizing them as she wrote the novel.

"Anyone who lives in the North, reading this book, will, kind of, recognize 100 characters they know," she said. "While none of the characters are real, they are based on things that happened, real people who have done things and true political events.

"The vast majority of the story happens in Rankin."

Feeney said she's been shocked by how much interest there's been in her book in California.

"I knew Canadians would be interested in it, but I'm astonished by how many Americans are," she said. "I've been invited to about 12 book clubs around California.

"People often become very interested in learning about a place they didn't even know existed, and a culture that's unfamiliar to them.

"The book really has been surprisingly popular and I've been thrilled with the response it's received."

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