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.