A writer recounts a particularly difficult year for her parents homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness in this memoir.
For Cutting’s (Where the Moose Slept, 2017, etc.) free-spirited parents, Tim and Kate Peters, their rugged life on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula was worth it for the beauty that surrounded them. Sure, they might have to travel hours for every amenity and labor for every comfort, but it allowed them to raise their infant daughter (the author) on a mountain with panoramic views, amid fields of wildflowers and alder forests where moose slept. This second volume of Cutting’s ongoing account of her family’s time in Alaska depicts one year when the remoteness of their home put particular pressures on the Peters household. The summer of 1979 was tricky enough. The author relates the time her mother was surprised to come home to find a man standing in their kitchen wielding a large hunting knife and describes a brush fire that nearly engulfed the property. While this was all going on, Cutting’s parents were racing to insulate and furnish their newly built house for the approaching cold. With their only neighbors away for the winter, the couple was forced to deal with mounting snow, impassable roads, cabin fever, and unexpected illness—trials that put their love of Alaska to the ultimate test. Cutting writes in a simple, understated prose that communicates the dire straits of her family while also downplaying its fears: “Kate watched as the raking whiteness howled past. She and her infant companion huddled together, listening apathetically to the perverse winds.” The author, who was a baby at the time, has fashioned the narrative from her parents’ recollections and her mother’s letters, many of which are included in the text. The sequel, which features family photographs, does not attempt to play up the drama, nor does it really investigate either Tim or Kate as complex characters. Rather, its goal is to present the day-to-day demands of living in a harsh climate far from the niceties of civilization. For those interested in feats of hard work and ingenuity at the edge of the world, the book delivers nicely.
An intriguing, sometimes-thrilling account of remote Alaskan life in 1979.
Pub Date: April 6, 2018
Page count: 294pp
Publisher: Echo Hill Arts Press, LLC
Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018
Cutting (Tales from Sleeping Moose Vol. 4, 2015, etc.) recounts the adventures of a young couple settling in a remote part of Alaska in this episodic novel.
It’s the summer of 1976, and Kate Peters is a young artist from Hawaii. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s notions of self-reliance, she goes to Alaska for her honeymoon with her new husband, Tim, who’s inspired by Jack London’s writings. The two are planning to buy property in Vermont once they get back to the Lower 48, but when they pass a sign advertising land for sale near a tiny Alaskan hamlet, they make the impulsive decision to settle right there. High up on a mountainside, the property possesses “a panoramic view of the Chugach Range, Skilak Lake and the ice capped Kenai Fjords to the south.” Kate takes the presence of a recent moose bed as a sign—after all, the town below them is called Sleeping Moose—and decides to build their house right on that spot. The next three years will be a race against the weather—and impending parenthood—as Kate and Tim attempt to erect a cabin and then a house in the wilderness; meanwhile, they contend with local characters, local fauna, and the effects of isolation on the human spirit. This work of “fact-based fiction” is based on Cutting’s own family members’ experiences, and it includes black-and-white photographs of her parents and moments from her own childhood. She writes with an eye for specificity that evokes the Alaskan bush in all its daunting beauty. The difficulty of life in the area, particularly before the advent of cellphones and the internet, is illustrated in the planning and patience that Kate and Tim put into every action. In one sense, this is a book about a construction project, but in another, it’s the story of the formation of a family—one built not on self-reliance but on learning to rely on one another. Overall, it offers a satisfying mix of nature writing, a survival narrative, and a deliberative account of a task slowly completed.
An evocative, vignette-filled story of one family’s experiences up north.
Pub Date: April 21, 2017
Publisher: Echo Hill Arts Press, LLC
Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2017: WHERE THE MOOSE SLEPT: AN ACCOUNT OF TWO LATE-20TH CENTURY PIONEERS WHO "SAW THE ELEPHANT" ON THE LAST FRONTIER
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