In describing her salmon-fishing life along Alaska's Cook Inlet, fiction writer Lord (Survival, 1991) fashions a rich, personal cosmology in prose as fluid as her environment. Lord and her husband, Ken, spend their summers at fishcamp, netting salmon—kings, pinks, sockeye, silvers, chums—for market and for themselves, with the occasional fish head tossed to eagles. Cook Inlet is no longer a great place to fish, but then ``making a living is less important to us than living where we want to be.'' Lord aspires to an authentic integration of work and life, trying to gain a healthy and wise connection to the patch she chose back in 1978, and so she lives deliberately, attentively, and in the spirit of inquiry. And to her everlasting credit, she doesn't browbeat readers with her lifestyle, doesn't get righteous, but wears her experiences lightly and with telling effect. Her book is written in the descriptive mode, broadly curious: She tells of opening up the fishcamp in late spring and of settling into beach time (sacred as opposed to chronological); explains how the immediate landscape was shaped (glacial and tectonic and volcanic forces); ruminates on the art of net mending and the constant impact of solitude; offers a knowledgeable guide to area botany and insinuates the local fauna gracefully into the story—thrush and warbler, beaver and moose, and the colossal brown bear with whom she had a run-in (``It's not fear I taste in my mouth, but something icy and metallic, like the backside of a cold mirror''). Sprinkled throughout are stories from the native Athabascan people and from immigrants come to make a living in an unforgiving locale, tales full of ``drownings, other deaths, abrupt and defeated departures, disasters narrowly averted.'' Lord creates an elegant, evocative portrait of a hard, beautiful place.
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