WAY OUT HERE by Richard Leo


Modern Life in Ice-Age Alaska
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 A closely observed, pleasurable account of homesteading days and nights in Alaska's remote Susitna Valley from Leo (Edges of the Earth, 1991). Leo shucked Manhattan for the wild beauties of deep Alaska 15 years ago. An urban executive educated at a tony university, he was an unlikely candidate for such a move, but he pulled it off, building his own home six miles from the nearest road, helping to raise a family of three boys, staying put. His land--a spruce and birch wood pocked by meadowlands hard by the flanks of Denali (Mount McKinley) and only a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle- -is a summer rain forest that transforms itself into a winter wonderland with 25 feet of snow and wind-chills dipping to 100 degrees below zero. Leo loves every inch and minute of it, and that passion comes pouring off the page, whether he's extolling the virtues of the boreal forest (alive with the sounds of thrush and warbler), discussing the pleasures of raising his sons in such a setting (his wife is curiously absent from the narrative), even when bemoaning the mosquito plague (118 killed before breakfast). Leo brings to this existence, with its quality of stillness, an empathy that would make Gary Snyder proud: long forays afield exploring Denali's five great glacial watersheds, getting intimate with the locals (plants, animals, and neighbors), talking to his sled dogs. The writing can be self-involved (there's little doubt that Leo thinks quite highly of himself), and one chapter dribbles endlessly on about ``connectedness''--long on good intentions, if too dreamily personal to have much impact. But despite the wifty moments, Leo displays a presence of mind that is alert, aware, and accepting. Few people can be said to have paid as much attention, to have listened as hard, to their patch of earth as Leo.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1996
ISBN: 1-57061-061-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Sasquatch
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996