A grinding memoir of life in the Alaskan wild.
Joining forces with practiced as-told-to author Sasser, Cobb relates her adventures as Alaska’s last homesteader (that is, the recipient of free government land in exchange for a guarantee to settle on and improve it). Her adventures are various, sometimes terrifying, and unfailingly predictable. Most readers already have an idea that Alaska is a wild, cold, beautiful place full of bears and other dangerous critters, and reading Cobb’s book will add little to that store of information: it’s full of pesky bears, all right, who steal the homesteaders’ food and poop all over their belongings, and it’s also full of majestic mountains and towering trees. That much said, the author treats us to sentimental nothings such as this: “In his eyes already appeared the faraway Alaska look. Wolves and grizzlies had that look. Les said it came from gazing into free and wild places where a man could be a man.” The narrative picks up force here and there when Cobb and company get down to describing in detail how men act like men in the frozen North (i.e., often badly and often ineptly). In one memorable scene, Cobb’s husband, who turns out to be a risky and moody partner, faces down a psychopathic bully of a neighbor Old West–style, ready to draw a pistol and square things up; in another, he courts a jail sentence by selling unlicensed booze to oil-camp workers; in still another, he disappears without a word, leaving his family to fend for itself. Still, everything turns out all right for the Cobbs in the end, after Norma finds fulfillment in sled-dog mushing and home-schooling and her husband discovers gold, mercifully bringing this tale to its close.
Call it dull on ice.