North of the Heart is the story of Alexandra Lund, a young Danish woman who is enjoying the bohemian life in Copenhagen at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties when she attends a press conference with a journalist friend and meets Stig Brand, a Polar adventurer who has come home to celebrate the proclamation of Greenland as Danish territory. They fall in love, he proposes, and although her family objects, she sails for Greenland with him three days after their meeting. They are married by the ship's captain.
Before they can head for his home far to the north, he must guide an American film crew on an expedition to make a documentary, and Alexandra goes along. A young man in the American party falls into a crevasse, and Stig rescues him, but he later dies of pneumonia. Because there are no embalmers in Greenland, the body is shipped home in a cask of imiak (Eskimo beer), which is a preservative.
This is just one example of the culture shock Alexandra experiences. In this remote land where the mail comes once a year children play the 'breathless game' and sometimes strangle themselves with the cords of their parkas, chanting shamans called angagoks go into trances and discover hidden secrets, the perpetual darkness of winter can cause a condition of raging despair called perlerorneq, and a favorite dessert is cloudberries in a mixture of seal oil and chewed caribou tallow beaten like whipped cream.
This icy and primitive land challenges the passion Alexandra feels for her husband, and she sometimes wonders if this cold and dangerous place is north of the heart, but she fights the temptation to believe it. Stig injures his arm first and then his leg, and they return to Denmark to seek medical help. After the amputation of his leg, Stig is resigned to staying in Denmark, but Alexandra now feels the pull of Greenland, and they return to a place which they know is not north of the heart.