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Sims's personal Alaskan journey, detailing the Exxon Valdez spill and culminating in his decision to leave when his Alaskan dream had become too stark even for him. Sims went to Alaska in 1982 at age 37 in search of intimacy with the land. Drawn to the Alaskan frontier by its deep natural beauty and its inherent solitude, he glories in the demands it places on his physical self while nurturing his creative one. Affiliated with a university there, Sims explores the wilderness -- bushflying, fishing, hiking, canoeing, rafting, and mingling with a variety of folks who thrive on the same challenges he does. He meets and marries his current wife, and they have a son. But when a small boy accidentally dies because his parents are too drunk to notice he's missing and then a malevolent hunter carelessly or otherwise threatens Sims's life, a dark side to his experience begins to emerge. He is already becoming disillusioned by the time the Exxon Valdez spills millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound on Good Friday, 1989. The Valdez incident and its aftermath, including the transformation that hundreds of millions of dollars for cleanup and the subsequent endowment fund had on towns and people, eventually tarnishes the pristine image too much. The long winter darkness has become too oppressive, and Sims takes his family back to the lower 48 in search of warmer human connections. While Leaving Alaska has many insightful passages and provides a detailed account of the Valdez disaster, as a whole it is indulgently impressionistic and disjointed in structure, with people and incidents weaving in and out of the narrative without context. Ultimately, this book frustrates the reader trying to see the big picture through Sims' eyes, and limits the scope of that vision.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly