A vibrant memoir of sled dog racing in the wilds of Alaska.
As a teenager, Pace spent every summer at an outdoor adventure camp in Colorado, living in a covered wagon and learning wilderness survival skills. Returning to the camp as a counselor deepened her love of adventure. Danger, she reveals in her assured and absorbing literary debut, gave her a “jolt of adrenaline” that became an addiction. “Or rather,” she writes, “a purifying ritual.” Six days after graduating from high school, Pace left her home and family in Texas to travel to Montana to live in a one-room log cabin with a man she met online. Although her parents had misgivings, they encouraged her independence and cheered when she enrolled in the University of Montana. After she graduated, she took a summer internship at the Denali National Park Sled Dog Kennels, where she developed “an insatiable love for dogs” and a clear sense of Alaska’s brutal backcountry. The following spring, she accompanied a musher on an “absolutely hellish” 20-mile patrol across slick ice and deep snow. “It was the hardest thing I had ever done,” she recalls, but she was “more scared of living a boring life” than confronting peril. When her marriage ended, Pace, divorced and bereft, became a caretaker for sled dogs, living alone in a small cabin in the wilderness. With temperatures that could plummet to 60 degrees below zero, the author faced the challenges of keeping herself and her dogs alive: not least, chopping firewood and hauling water (the cabin had no running water and no indoor plumbing). Sled dogs, whom she lovingly portrays as having distinct and quirky personalities, were seductive, and racing beckoned irresistibly: Much of the memoir recounts Pace’s training for and racing in the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, both exhausting, exhilarating, and, as Pace depicts them, glorious feats. Soon, the author and her new love set up their own kennel, devoted to their valiant dogs—and to each other.
A buoyant evocation of a thrilling, hardscrabble life.