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Veteran travel-writer Jenkins (Along the Edge of America, 1995, etc.) looks for Alaska and finds an idealized America: sparsely populated with hardy individualists in majestic scenery.

For more than a year, the author and family members lived in the northernmost state during all seasons, balmy or frigid, through sunshine or blizzard. Based in Seward, eager as an Iditarod dog, he journeyed through tundra, bush, and mountain, north and south of the Arctic Circle from Cordova to Tok, Kotzebue to Unalakleet. The vistas he saw are picturesque and, reminiscent of TV’s Northern Exposure, the people distinctive. If Jenkins ever met any men or women he didn’t like, they weren’t in Alaska (except, perhaps, for a passing census worker). He found flannel-shirted Alaskans, whether immigrant or native—wanderers, teachers, hunters, fishermen, pilots, civil servants, Haida or Tlinglit—to be stalwart, generous, and noble. A typical nice guy, for example, was “sort of godlike.” And that’s just the people. Domestic animals and the author took a liking to each other, too. The whales, moose, and brown bears offered no opinion, though from his side Jenkins expresses a healthy respect for the magnificence of wildlife. On an Alaskan high, he is unmatched by Jack London or Robert W. Service, and the result is as persuasive as an avalanche. The writing, including some nice contributions by a 20-year-old daughter, is effective in spite of some incorrect personal pronouns and a disconcerting habit of omitting the requisite preposition after “couple”—it’s “a couple snow machines” or “a couple dogs” throughout). The tome, big like the state, will be a revelation to many, including the author’s neighbors back in Tennessee.

A bracing, happy view of Alaska and Alaskans prior to a couple little changes like new oil drilling and Star Wars outposts. A very appealing tour for stay-at-home outdoorspeople. (16-page color insert, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26178-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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