Margaret Atwood's second novel, Surfacing, earned critical and popular acclaim in Canada and the United States after its publication in 1972. Surfacing is structured around the point of view of a young woman who travels with her boyfriend and two married friends to a remote island on a lake in Northern Quebec, where she spent much of her childhood, to search for her missing father. Accompanied by her lover and another young couple, she becomes caught up in her past and in questioning her future. This psychological mystery tale presents a compelling study of a woman who is also searching for herself. Readers praise the novel's style, characterizations, and themes. Critic Patricia F. Goldblatt comments in her essay on Atwood's protagonists that in her construction of the main character in Surfacing, Atwood proves:
to her and to us that we all possess the talent and the strength to revitalize our lives and reject society's well-trodden paths that suppress the human spirit. She has shown us that we can be vicariously empowered by our surrogate, who not only now smiles but winks back at us, daring us to reclaim our own female identities.