An intense, quirky, and feverishly absorbing account of Leo's journey from urban conformity to a wilderness homestead in Alaska. Ten years ago, with little more than a dream, $900, and a game if wary girlfriend, Leo abandoned the safe path seemingly assured for Harvard-educated children of privilege in order to try to live ``way out at the edges instead of just traveling through.'' Unfolding with almost hallucinogenic fervor, this is the intimate, often quite beautiful record of his improbable success. Starting out with virtually no survival skills, this latter-day ``pilgrim'' manages to master such anachronistic necessities as building a house from self-cut logs, handling a dog team, and climbing glacial peaks as he moves from N.Y.C. to ramshackle Talkeetna (pop. 200) and on to his own ridge—with ``no people or roads for a hundred square miles''—nestled in the land below Mt. McKinley. Along the way, there are genuinely charming portraits of the strange assortment of disaffected veterans, ex-cons, ``broccoli'' (Alaskan bush-slang for marijuana) farmers, visionaries, and lost souls attracted to the literal margins of society—and these are matched by brilliantly poetic glimpses of nature closely observed as a daily mystery. Leo himself, disconcertingly, comes across as self- absorbed, pompous, and frantic (constantly seeking ``signs'' and ``angels''; alienating his girlfriend, the mother of his son, by his insistence on solitude over human connection). But perhaps these are precisely the qualities needed to achieve his odd and lovely goal of ``continuity, a lasting home where my son could see what was real: death interwoven with life, inexplicable sorrow and sudden radiance.'' A striking, stubbornly idiosyncratic chronicle of a defiantly different life—and a memorable and often spellbinding book debut.
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