THE CRUELEST MILES by Gay Salisbury
Kirkus Star

THE CRUELEST MILES

The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic

KIRKUS REVIEW

Two cousins debut with an eloquent account of the famous 1925 dash by dog-sled teams to bring diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska.

Freelance journalist Laney Salisbury and former publishing executive Gay Salisbury seamlessly blend Alaska’s early history and an anthropological survey of Eskimo traditions with a page-turning chronicle of the race to Nome. Once the center of a gold rush, by December 1924 it was a small town on the Bering Sea shut off from the rest of the territory, its only harbor icebound from November until spring, its only line of communication the trails the dog teams used. In December, Dr. Curtis Welch noted an increasing number of illnesses among the local native population as well as the town’s children, suspected diphtheria, and became increasingly alarmed. New supplies of serum had failed to arrive, and he had no laboratory facilities. As children died, and the number of infected rose in late January 1925, Nome’s mayor placed the town under quarantine and issued a nationwide plea for serum. It was located in Anchorage and taken by rail to Nenana, where the first dog team picked it up and began the race across frozen seas and up icy mountains to complete the 674-mile journey to Nome. Both the weather and the terrain proved hostile and capricious: ice floes suddenly broke apart, blizzards blew up, and temperatures dropped. The writers vividly describe the race against time and nature, which attracted national attention, and provide well-rounded portraits of the team leaders and their dogs, especially Balto, the leader of the team that reached Nome first. His statue stands in New York’s Central Park.

A riveting epic that memorably honors the heroes, both human and canine, who pushed themselves to the limit to save others.

Pub Date: June 9th, 2003
ISBN: 0-393-01962-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2003




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