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.