... the individual pieces are so artfully arranged to reflect off one another that they form a tightly coherent whole ... Jamie’s ability to conjure a sense of place is astonishing...there’s a risk of believing one has actually been there in person ... But she is also as concerned with excavating human personalities as the archaeologists are concerned with uncovering walrus ivory artifacts. Diggers and local residents appear, fully formed, by way of a few carefully recorded details and fragments of speech ... The impacts of climate change are made explicit without polemicizing. And the personal themes of time’s passing are made universal without the self-obsession that mars some of travel and nature writing’s tales of 'healing journeys' ... As always, Jamie’s deft and subtle handling of her themes is aided by the remarkable quality of the writing itself. She is an acclaimed poet, as well as an author of prose, and her writing here certainly has the meticulous precision of poetry. But its fineness has an elusive, quicksilver quality ... Put together, the whole thing shimmers ... Individual lines, containing individual ideas, come with the force of an unexpected blow, leaving the reader briefly giddy.
It is as if Jamie, wherever she goes, functions as a lightning rod, drawing past, present and future together ... Jamie’s writing has a deceptive simplicity: its powers are cumulative. Her way is to build impressionistic detail by recounting conversations, travels, observations of the natural world, and then carefully layer it in. It is its own kind of archaeology. Every now and then, however, she cuts through the assemblage of beautiful prose with a stinging comment: a reminder that the natural balance is out of whack, or that violence and menace can surface just as easily as venerable artefacts from the past ... Jamie’s apocalyptism is the quiet kind; it is gradual ageing and erosion, and a build-up of 'plastic and waste' that will do us in. But we can also breathe the world in deeply, inhaling a beauty more precious for its fading.
There is unity here. This is not just a collection of pieces thrown together in sufficient number to make a book. Even the one essay that does not immediately seem to have a connection to the others – a marvellous picture of a journey to the edge of Tibet at the time of the Tiananmen Square repression in Beijing – does in fact belong ... This is a beautiful book, and a wise one. It invites feeling and thought.