Monday, June 10, 2013

Spotlight on Alaska Books: North of Hope

The plane fell from the clouds toward the dirt airstrip in the Inupiat Village of Kaktovik, Alaska. I braced myself against the seat in front of me. Windows aged and opaque blurred the borders of ice and land, sea and sky. The airstrip rushed upward with menacing inevitability. Kaktovik perched on Barter Island, a barrier island shaped like a bison's skull just north of the Arctic Coastal Plain. Ice stretched from just offshore to the horizon. The Beech 1900 touched down with all the grace of a drunk, first one wheel and then the other staggering on the rough surface. Our bodies lurched forward and to the side. Gravel crunched beneath the wheels until the sound smoothed into a rhythmic bumping to the end of the runway. As I walked off the plane down the rickety stairs, the Arctic wind cut through my fleece. I stood on the boundary between land and sea, water and ice. It was the end of the world. The ultima Thule. (opening PP, p 19)

A memoir of adventure, tragedy, family and faith, and a daughter's navigating the wilderness of an Alaskan river and of her own heart. When her parents are killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska’s remote Arctic, author Shannon Huffman Polson is forced into a wilderness of grief. Her quest for healing is recounted with heartbreaking candor in North of Hope. Polson travels from her home in Seattle to the wilderness of Alaska, where she retraces her father and stepmother’s final days along an Arctic river, effortlessly weaving together the internal landscape of grief with the exterior landscape of the Arctic, elegantly entwining natural history, adventure and sacred pilgrimage while she wrestles with and draws strength from her faith and memories. This deeply moving narrative is shot through with the human search for meaning in the face of tragedy. 

"A soulful and brave book…a testament to deep change, human and wild." - Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds

"Daring, perceptive and eloquent-- Polson's writing is clear and forceful. Like all true pilgrimages, this one is challenging, and well worth taking." -- Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works and A Conservationist Manifesto

"This is no ordinary memoir. To read it is to be changed." - Jeanne Murray Walker, author of Geography of Memory

"North of Hope is an enthralling story of loss, courage and redemption, told by a gifted, original and brave new voice."- Robert Clark, award-winning author of ten books including Dark Water: Flood and Redemption and Mr. White's Confession

Shannon Huffman Polson lives and writes with her family in Seattle, Washington. Her work has been published in High Country News, and Alaska and Seattle Magazines, Cirque Journal and Adventum Magazine, among others. After studying English literature at Duke University, Polson spent 8 years flying Apache helicopters around the world with the U.S Army, received her MBA at the Tuck School at Dartmouth and worked in the corporate world for five years before returning for her MFA at Seattle Pacific University and writing North of Hope. Polson was born and reared in Anchorage, and still spends time every year at a cabin in Denali. The Polsons enjoy backpacking and skiing, and Polson sings with Seattle Pro Musica. North of Hope is available in hardback, all ebook versions, and audio. It is published by Zondervan, an imprint of Harper Collins.

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