Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
South Pole Station

South Pole Station

A Novel

Ashley Shelby






These are some of the questions that determine if you have what it takes to survive at South Pole Station, a place with an average temperature of -54°F and no sunlight for six months a year. Cooper Gosling has just answered five hundred of them. Her results indicate she is abnormal enough for Polar life.

Cooper’s not sure if this is an achievement, but she knows she has nothing to lose. Unmoored by a recent family tragedy, she’s adrift at thirty and—despite her early promise as a painter—on the verge of sinking her career. So she accepts her place in the National Science Foundation’s Artists & Writers Program and flees to Antarctica, where she encounters a group of misfits motivated by desires as ambiguous as her own. The only thing the Polies have in common is the conviction that they don’t belong anywhere else. Then a fringe scientist arrives, claiming climate change is a hoax. His presence will rattle this already-imbalanced community, bringing Cooper and the Polies to the center of a global controversy and threatening the ancient ice chip they call home.

A warmhearted comedy of errors set in the world’s harshest place, Ashley Shelby's South Pole Station is a wry and witty debut novel about the courage it takes to band together when everything around you falls apart.

Hudson Booksellers Best of the Year



Do you ever have pain in your chest unrelated to indigestion?

Are you often sad?

Do you have digestion problems due to stress?

Do you have problems with authority?



Praise for South Pole Station

"Shelby makes serious statements about scientific quests, climate change, politics and people in extremis, but it's the 'Polies' who undergird the story...With South Pole Station's satire, science, wry wit and warmth, Ashley Shelby has written one of the best novels of the year."Shelf Awareness

"If you like literature that transports you to exotic locales beyond the reach of commercial airlines and enables you to view hot topics from cool new angles, South Pole Station is just the ticket....Shelby's writing is pithy and funny...[and] in this unusual, entertaining first novel, [she] combines science with literature to make a clever case for scientists' and artists' shared conviction that 'the world could become known if only you looked hard enough.'"—Heller McAlpin, NPR

"Few places evoke feelings of isolation and existential crisis like the South Pole. In this terrific debut, Ashley Shelby achieves not only that but also a grand sense of comedy...[South Pole Station] is a lovely, satirical, and emotionally complex novel about coming to terms with heartbreak and re-finding one’s self through art."LitHub (16 Books to Read This Month)

"Funny, quirky, and witty."Brava Magazine (Must-Read Authors)

"An eclectic dramatis personae mans South Pole, and Shelby mines this singular society...[It's] the perfect setting for black comedy."Paste magazine

"Set in the vast yet claustrophobic reality of Antarctica, the novel's first delight is in its vivid depiction of sub-zero life...The second delight is the clear message that science is not belief. It's science....Shelby keeps more than a few story lines thrumming here, yet a keen eye for character and a sharp ear for smartass dialogue keeps the strands straight."Minneapolis Star Tribune

[A] smart and inventive first novel...Shelby balances Eros with Thanatos in a story composed of barbed dialogue, email, and official memos.”Kirkus Reviews

Throughout witty, often hilarious scenarios, Shelby expertly weaves in the legitimate political and environmental concerns of climate change faced by the worldwide scientific community today. Shelby's exploration of the human spirit continuously digs deeper, ever in search of answers to all of life's important questions—scientific and otherwise.”BookPage

South Pole Station is a portrait painted with the whole palette—science and politics; art and history; love and frostbite—and all of it crackles with the can't-make-this-up details of life at the bottom of the world. What starts as an (extreme) travel adventure turns into an (extreme) comedy of manners and then things get (extremely) real and you (will definitely) cry. Sometimes it turns out a place was just waiting for the right person to tell its story; I think South Pole Station was waiting for Ashley Shelby.”—Robin Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“Turn the pages of Ashley Shelby's debut novel, South Pole Station, and meet the scientists, researchers, misfits, lovers, medics, plagiarists, cooks—and the handful of wannabe artists—who populate her marvelously vivid and insular society at the bottom of the globe. This is a terrific book: one that you can live in deeply, while you're reading, only to reemerge after the final chapter, grateful and blinking, wondering where in the heck you are.”—Julie Schumacher, national bestselling author of Dear Committee Members

"Journalist [Ashley] Shelby's first novel eschews easy choices and treats interpersonal relations, grief, science, art, and political controversy with the same deft, humorous hand. Readers will find characters to love, suspect, and identify with among Cooper's fellow Polies and won't forget them easily. A good match for readers whose interest in Antarctica was sparked by Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette, those who enjoy stories about quirky individuals and made families, and extreme armchair travelers."Booklist

"Shelby's first novel, based on a short story that won the Third Coast Fiction Prize, skillfully weaves science, climate change, politics, sociology, and art...All readers of fiction, particularly those interested in life in extreme climates, will find [South Pole Station] appealing."Library Journal (starred review)

“I was dazzled by Ashley Shelby’s South Pole Stationa terrifically witty, insightful, and satisfying novel, peopled by memorable misfits thrown together in a hothouse of conflicting interests in the frozen Antarctic.”Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

"This is a fascinating novel, loaded with interesting history of Antarctic exploration, current scientific operations, and the living and working conditions of those folks brave enough to endure six months of darkness and six months of daylight."Publishers Weekly

“Ashley Shelby's debut South Pole Station is an absolute treasure. She's somehow written an infectious beach read about the coldest place on earth AND a stunning treatise on family, grief, creativity, and science. This book hits all the best notes of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Catch 22 and has the warmth and wit to carve its way into even the iciest of hearts.”John Jodzio, author of Knockout

“Prepare for the big chill! Ashley Shelby’s mismatched cast of characters are all powerfully drawn to the South Pole, each for their own reason; Shelby charts their respective courses with sensitivity, intelligence, and grace. Here is a brave, original novel about leaving the known and familiar world in order to find it again.”Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of The House on Primrose Pond

South Pole Station is the brilliant story of artist and lost soul Cooper Gosling. In Antarctica, she meets the misfits and margin-dwellers with whom she has to navigate the webs of belief and knowledge, grief and hope, loneliness and love. South Pole Station reminds us that sometimes we have to go to the end of the earth to find what is within us.”Frank Bures, author of The Geography of Madness

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Ashley Shelby

ASHLEY SHELBY is a former editor at Penguin and a prize-winning writer and journalist. She received her MFA from Columbia University and is the author of Red River Rising: The Anatomy of a Flood and the Survival of an American City, a narrative nonfiction account of the record-breaking flood that, in 1997, devastated Grand Forks, North Dakota. The short story that became the basis for South Pole Station is a winner of the Third Coast Fiction Prize; this is her first novel.

Ashley Shelby

© Erica Hanna

From the Publisher


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