By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated August 03, 2007 04:00 AM
Advertisement

Kevin Patterson’s own experience as a kablunuak, or white person, who practices medicine among the Inuit on the Hudson Bay in Canada’s subarctic lends Consumption, his simply told, involving debut novel, an unmatchable authority. The title refers to the tuberculosis that afflicts an Inuit girl from a nomadic hunting family in the 1950s, a life-threatening illness cured only by a six-year stay at a sanitarium further south. That’s where she first consumes white culture, whose alluring, confusing taste leads to an adult life of gnawing internal estrangement after she marries a white man. Patterson is an empathetic observer of wrenching cultural change and so-called progress.