Oct 19, 2009

Way Out Here

Modern Life in Ice-Age Alaska
by Richard Leo

A contemplative memoir about life in rural Alaska. We're talking extremely rural. The author, Richard Leo, lived for fifteen years in an isolated cabin deep in the Susitna Valley. For most of the year the only way to and from his cabin is by dogsled, or hiking with a backpack. There are no roads. During breakup leaving the valley is impossible. Way Out Here is a collection of thoughts, observations and brief stories about what life is like in such a remote, cold place- its hardships and benefits. He talks about the irony of using modern conveniences (solar-powered electricity) alongside primitive means (outhouses, no tv, etc). One chapter is all about sled dogs, another about how the diverse, widely scattered community of the valley comes together to argue over issues of building resorts to encourage tourism, or leaving the land pristine. He talks about how living so remotely makes self-reliance and helping neighbors a necessity, something he instills in his sons (which took my mind back to Confessions of a Slacker Mom). He talks about the wide vistas and looming mountains, the brilliant still landscape of winter and madly active growth of summer; the eerie twilight when the sun sets for half the year, the disorientation when it never goes to bed for summer. There are mountain-climbing trips and walks on glaciers, hunts for moose and encounters with bears.

As my house is kind of cold right now- our furnace broke right after we returned from vacation!- it was easy for me to feel immersed in this book, to imagine myself tramping alongside Leo across snowfields, or balancing on the dogsled whizzing through turns. I've heard his previous book, Edges of the Earth, is even better so I'm anxious to read that one now, too. (I found this book at a library sale for twenty cents.)

Rating: 3/5                191 pages, 1996


bermudaonion said...

Oh, man - I admire anyone who can live under those conditions.

Petunia said...

"it was easy for me to feel immersed in this book". lol It definitely sounds interesting. I'm always very interested in books that tell about the pros and cons of living off the land without the help of modern conveniences.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting, but definitely not a way I would like to live.

An Anonymous Child said...

This actually sounds like an interesting read. I have a particular interest in northern areas (Alaska obviously included) and am always interested to read stories about experiences of this type. This sounds like it might entertain as well as teach a lot. Good to know.