Tschirgi presents a debut memoir that extols the joys of a childhood spent in tiny Tok, Alaska—population: about 1,200.
According to the author, her father, Steve Breeser, dreamed of being able to live in Alaska, and he and his new bride, Marsha, even gave it a try back in 1971. But there were no jobs to be had, and at summer’s end, they were forced to return to the lower 48. In 1982, when Tschirgi was 6, Steve’s work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally offered him the opportunity he’d been waiting for: a posting in small-town Tok. The Breesers packed themselves, their two kids, and one dog into two cars (including one loaded with 100 pounds of wheat to get them through the Alaskan winter), and headed north to begin what would become a life-defining decade for the author. It seems to have been a childhood totally free of angst, and the isolation of living in the middle of Alaska, as described here, was not so much a challenge as it was an adventure. The image that emerges of the little, isolated outpost is one of welcoming neighbors, devoted teachers, kids riding their bikes and playing Kick the Can during the endless daylight of Alaskan summers, and swimming in the frigid waters of Moon Lake (although people carried “some passengers known as leeches” out with them when they returned to shore). Tschirgi’s prose is lighthearted, articulate, and conversational. However, there’s a curious absence of passion in her tone, and the book is more of a reporting of events than a reliving of them. There’s no tension or conflict, although the author does share a couple of very Alaskan-style close calls; how many Americans, for example, can say they were charged by a mother moose protecting her babies? Overall, this slim volume, which comes complete with a number of family-album photos, is intended to be, and most definitely is, a loving tribute to the author’s father and to the Alaska of her youth.
A pleasant, cheerful reminiscence that offers some engaging glimpses into daily life in one of the few truly remote areas of the United States.