Review of The Ivory Caribou by Caroline McCullagh

If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

Reviewed by Carlton Rolle


Caroline McCullagh earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. Her diverse writing projects include five novels, a cookbook, a memoir, a student opera (under the auspices of San Diego Opera), fourteen years of monthly book reviews for the San Diego Horticultural Society, and one year as Book Editor for The American Mensa Bulletin. For the past three years, Caroline has written a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune with Richard Lederer. As a professional editor, she teaches creative writing two days a week.


The Ivory Caribou is a heart fetching story following character Anne O’Malley. After her husband Robby died, Anne decides to continue on the genealogical research they were pursuing. Anne findsmore clues to information on Robby’s father, Brendan. She follows a lead from her home in California to Canada. When there, Anne has another lead and travels to an isolated town in the North called Ungaveq. Here Anne discovers Brendan adopted a completely different way of life. So much so, he started an Inuit family. The family is still alive and thriving.


One major aspect of the story was a tale of love. Anne was recovering from her husband’s death. Without Robby, Anne was filled with emptiness and loneliness. She found comfort and love in people. Most of that came from her best-friend Carola. Two men particularly helped her move on. I enjoyed the internal turmoil mentioned when Anne was with Jack or Rene. Many times you find her being enveloped by the present time and her feelings being snapped back when Robby entered her thoughts.  As she continued to see both men, her emotions gained a greater influence over her actions.


Another aspect that I thought was interesting was the anthropological insight in the story. Readers are able to have a general sense about the life and times of Inuit people. With Anne being new to the process, I felt I was learning right along with her and the class. (Without the snow of course!) Readers see how important it is to adapt to the way of life. I felt a lot of the actions Inuit people did made sense. It seemed like it was done to keep everyone as comfortable and sustainable as possible. Especially given the close loving quarters that they had to be in at times.


Finding out about Brendan’s life through the research that Anne found was really cool. It gave such an amazing insight into his thoughts about Inuit culture, his efforts in the war, and himself. When Anne discovered more information about him, I felt like it was a personal win for the family.


I really enjoyed the way that this book was written. Caroline put a lot of effort into the topics. The Ivory Caribou speaks to love, turmoil, and adventure. I would recommend this to anyone looking to take an Artic dip in their reading and have their heart beating from adventure and love!


More from Caroline McCullagh at:


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