Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson

While they were rafting down a remote river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Polson's father and stepmother were killed by a barren-ground grizzly bear. This book is Polson's attempt to make sense of the events and deal with the grief - as well as reflect on her parents' lives, and her own. It's structured around her own trip down the same river, including a visit to the fatal campsite.

She weaves several different themes together. Some parts are her own memoirs; others reflect on Dad's and Kathy's lives, individually and jointly. (Polson's mother, who divorced Dad about twenty years previously, is nearly absent from the book.) Polson explores what we find important about wilderness, though the book is more about people than about nature.

Her poetic writing weaves together her painful internal landscape of grief with the exquisite yet harsh exterior landscape of the Arctic. Like her father, Shannon's deep appreciation for the untamed and remote wilderness of the Alaskan Arctic moves her story effortlessly between adventure, natural history, sacred pilgrimage, music, nature and faith.

Polson writes beautifully and honestly. This book will appeal to those dealing with grief, those who love Alaska and wilderness, and also people who enjoy poignant well-written memoirs. 

I received an advance copy for review from Handlebar Marketing in exchange for an honest review. 

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