SHOPPING FOR PORCUPINE by Seth Kantner

SHOPPING FOR PORCUPINE

A Life in Arctic Alaska
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Inspiring stories of an upbringing in the frosty wilderness.

Employing a pleasant, conversational tone, novelist and outdoor photographer Kantner (Ordinary Wolves, 2004) fondly relates his life in Alaska. His prideful father Howard, an intrepid wanderer, scaled Mount McKinley in the early 1960s. Howard had previously learned the ancient ways of the indigenous Iñupiaq people, which he and wife Erna then translated into the upbringing of Seth and his brother Kole. Kantner testifies to the immense challenges of day-to-day survival in a homemade sod igloo, a structure that was regularly buried by sudden snow squalls, in a climate where “frostbite was a way of life.” The Kantner family subsisted on animals like porcupine and caribou in its entirety: “pot roast, tongue, tenderloins, lips and leg bones, rendered back and intestine fat.” They wore mukluks and wrapped themselves in hides to stay warm as they drank melted snow and welcomed stray visitors to their free-range “bush life.” Throughout their youth, Seth and Kole experienced “low stone walls of racism” from nearby Eskimo villagers because of their white skin. As they matured into young men, the brothers hunted, ice-fished and trapped otter together, though the gap between their personal interests eventually pried them apart. Kole went on to study physics; Seth romanced his wife-to-be in their igloo, quit college, then later gravitated to the exacting art of nature photographs, many of which fill this book with breathtaking splendor. Later chapters find the author and spouse Stacey enjoying adventures on the Alaskan tundra, including varied moose dramas and driving daughter China to kindergarten in 30-degree-below-zero weather. Now in his late 40s, the author advocates for the preservation of the Alaskan tundra, increasingly gentrified by big-fisted politics and “heaped and flippant wealth.”

A majestic, frozen backdrop beautifully thawed by human life.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-57131-301-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Milkweed
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2008




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