I just finished Book number 8 out of thirteen for the Canadian Book Challenge, Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat.
I actually read this book in high school. The only thing I remember about the book from the last time I read it was that the two boys who were lost got snow blind in their travels and were in physical pain from the glare of the snow as they travelled unprotected in the winter. In my memory this event was a significant portion of the book, but as I re-read it I found this incident was not the most salient event at ALL in the story of Jamie and Awasin.
It was cool to go back and read something I have read such a long time ago. I enjoyed the story thoroughly, even though it was a very quick read and obviously designed for teen readers.
Here is the story synopsis:
Jamie’s parents have died in a car crash leaving him in the care of his trapper uncle, Angus. Angus had supported Jamie’s boarding-school fees for a long time, until the fur trade had declined. Angus could no longer support Jamie’s school. Thus, Jamie left the boarding school to live with his uncle. Jamie made friends with the Cree Tribe’s Chief’s son, Awasin. Angus and the tribe chief load up their skins for trading and head south to a more reputable trader who will not cheat them. Jamie stayed with Awasin for Angus’ canoe could not hold three people and other things. Shortly after the adults departure, some Chipeweyans come to the Crees for help. The Chipeweyans were starving because the deer did not come at its usual time in the year. Awasin’s mother was suspicious that the Chipeweyans may just be looking for a free handout, and so the boys agreed to go with them back to the Chipeweyan’s camp to prove they needed the supplies. Denikazi wants the boys to go with them on the hunt because they have bertter guns. This is how Jamie and Awasin start their journey for the caribou hunt out in the barrens.
Travelling further and further north the men do not encounter any caribou. The group decided to split up and Jamie and Awasin stay with two men while the rest of the men travel further.
While staying with the two young Chipewyan hunters, Jamie decides he wants to take the chance and explore. He tricks Awasin into it and they travel to find the ‘stone house’ that one of the two Chipeweyans had told them about. On the way to the stone house they unexpectedly meet a whirlpool and barely survive, and Jamie is badly injured. Gathering what they can salvage from the water and their broken canoe, they have barely enough to survive. They cannot use the canoe anymore, they are stranded in the barrens.
When the two young Chipeweyans found out that Awasin and Jamie were gone they went on searching for them. Their search is abruptly stopped when they catch a glance of an Eskimo kayak. Fearing the Eskimo they turn back, abandoning their search.
Jamie and Awasin decide to cut across the land and hopefully intercept Denikazi up the other leg of the river. They arrive and set up camp but miss Denekazi and his men travelling through the night with their canoes loaded with Caribou.
Knowing they have no way to reconnect with the Chipeweyans, and no canoe to travel home in, Awasin and Jamie realize their best chance at survival is to set up camp and survive until winter when they can travel south over the frozen ground. The rest of the story is about their survival and their reunion with family when they finally succeed and make it home.