Dalvi: Six Years in the Arctic Tundra by Laura Galloway – extract

Dalvi: Six Years in the Arctic Tundra by Laura Galloway was published by Allen & Unwin on 3 February 2022.

Today I have an extract to share.



Freezing cold and tired, I am holding on to a long

green tarp, alongside a handful of others, guiding

reindeer into an enormous holding enclosure in

a remote part of the Norwegian Arctic. A giant buttery

moon lies flat against the hard blue twilight sky, so low

you feel as if you could easily touch it. It illuminates everything:

from the jumpy reindeer moving en masse, a

blinding flurry of hooves and poop and antlers, to my

warm breath hitting the rimy cold night sky in plumes

like a smoker with a phantom cigarette. As I look up at

the moon, toes numb in my muddy boots from having

stood for what feels like hours waiting for the herders to

bring the reindeer in from the tundra, I am struck by the

absolute insanity and marvel of life, and of the improbable

twists and turns in our stories that we could never

begin to imagine.

One year ago, a Saturday night would not have involved

standing on the frozen expanse of the Finnmark plateau

with a family of Sámi herders, watching steaming blood

being scooped out of a reindeer carcass as it’s field-dressed

by a grunting Sámi man named Odd Ha tta with a giant

knife. One year ago, I would have been walking through

Union Square in New York on my way to a progressively

boozy dinner with friends, spending hours talking about

their work and my media job, and did you read such and

such in the New Yorker, and what show was on at MoMA or

what was happening in the increasingly worrying political

landscape. And, of course, there would have been talk

of relationship problems – and there were always problems

– or money problems and how busy everyone was.

And then the evening would have slowly unravelled,

everyone growing louder and more maudlin, until it was

over, faded into a history of Saturdays just like every other

one that came before it, followed by a sharp hangover the

next day, a raft of emails and stress and worries about

everything back in full view in an endless cycle.

Those days were now far behind me, a distant memory

of the person I was, tucked away like the dozens of utterly

useless high-heeled shoes that sat with all my other

earthly possessions in a storage area some two thousand

miles away in Manhattan, collecting dust and losing

relevance. In my old life, tomorrow I would be heading

to City Bakery for an iced coffee, with crippling anxiety

about the Monday to come and how I would hang on one

more day in a life that was becoming unmanageable to

an extent of which no one around me was really aware,

unless you happened to be the lucky recipient of a spectacular

late-night Laura Galloway Ambien and red-wine

phone call.

I was breaking open and falling apart, and to reveal

this weakness and vulnerability to anyone might have

caused me to die of shame. But the universe seemed to

have plans for me, ones that would take me outside of

everything I knew, and everything that I thought made

me me, to a place where I now think nothing of not showering

for three days straight, and Saturday involves

helping chop wood for a fence-post, or cutting reeds to

dry and braid into shoes for the brittle winter to come,

or smoking reindeer meat in a tent called a lávvu while

drinking bitter black coffee, the smoke clinging to my

hair and clothing and settling into my pores. This is a

place where you have to be with yourself because there

are no distractions. Only work and nature and time.

About the Book

An ancestry test suggesting she shared some DNA with the Sámi people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway’s wanderlust; an affair with a Sámi reindeer herder ultimately led her to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years.

Dálvi is the story of Laura’s time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in. Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her – the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home.

Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong.

About the Author

Laura Galloway is a writer and communications strategist. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times and holds a Master of Arts in Indigenous Journalism from the Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino, Norway, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Southern California. An ardent animal lover, she and her partner live with her two reindeer-herding dogs and two cats.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. This sounds so interesting, and those dogs are wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It does sound interesting. And cold!


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