Book Review: Finding North by George Michelsen Foy

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In the opening chapter, appropriately titled “Fear,” author George Michelsen Foy makes a compelling point about navigation: “From the start, staying alive has depended on navigation: the art of figuring out our position and in which direction to travel.” In fact, he’s referring to the moment you leave the womb; however, this sentiment holds true throughout our lives, especially for sailors. If you can’t navigate your vessel, figure out your position or decipher which direction you are heading, you may as well be on an inflatable float in a swimming pool.

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In 1844 Foy’s great-grandfather, the captain of a Norwegian cargo ship died at sea after getting lost in a snowstorm. Foy decided to recreate his ancestor’s final voyage, to better understand what may have cost his great-grandfather his life and to gain some additional insight into his own obsession with navigation and how it plays a key role in our existence as human beings. Throughout his account of his voyage and research, Foy finds a compelling way to articulate the link between navigation and memory: he explains how modern technology like GPS may not only be contributing to diseases associated with memory loss but also be playing a significant role when it comes to losing a key part of what makes us human.

Flatiron Books, $25.99

May 2017

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