PORTAGE by Sue Leaf


A Family, a Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life
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A woman and her family canoe the waterways of America.

At the age of 10, Leaf (A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts, 2013, etc.) had her first view of a canoe as it skimmed across Lake Alexander in Minnesota. From those moments, a desire to own and paddle a canoe of her own grew; at 14, she defied her father and headed out in a neighbor’s boat. From that moment, she was hooked, eager to plunge into the waterways of Minnesota, where she could immerse herself in nature. As she grew older, the author sought a relationship with someone who shared her passion for canoeing. In these short essays, Leaf combines her joy of paddling and of being in the great outdoors with lyrical descriptions of the natural waterways she and her family have paddled over the course of 40 years. From the Boundary Waters region to the Mississippi River to the Little Missouri River, Leaf chronicles the ups and downs of life on the water: the thrill of seeing a new species of bird to add to her list; setting up camp on a historic site once used by Lewis and Clark; the peace and quiet found on remote waterways; the feeling of anxiety as a storm rages overhead; the fear of falling out of a canoe in the middle of rapids; and the mixed emotions of realizing that many others have discovered the joys of paddling, to the point that some sites are overrun with people. Leaf ably interlaces her personal narratives with historical facts and natural details of the more than 25 lakes and rivers she has paddled. However, a series of maps would have been a helpful addition.

Pleasant outdoors stories that will appeal to nature lovers, avid canoeists, and armchair travelers.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8166-9854-7
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015


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