Goodreads Book Giveaway
Goodreads Book Giveaway
Ward’s spirited debut memoir documents the privations and advantages of life in Alaska’s wilderness.
The author was just 25 years old in 1980 when her husband, Sam, quit his job and sold their Ohio home. Sam was from West Virginia mountain stock, and had strong survival and hunting skills, so they decided to go to Alaska. Although suburbanite Ward was initially reluctant about going on such an adventure, she threw herself into her “new role as a wilderness wife.” After a five-day journey, they settled on Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula, known for its sudden storms. They started out in a tent, eating nothing but rice and not showering for a month. The chapter on how they built their cabin, “By the Sweat of Our Backs,” particularly stands out. Throughout, black-and-white photographs and lively, recreated dialogue show how the Wards adjusted to new standards. “We eventually learned to slow our pace to nature’s speed. Compared with squatting in the woods, an outhouse was quite a luxury,” Ward writes. A few close friendships with other residents eased their loneliness, even after 2 feet of snow and a frozen lake isolated them during the winter. However, the cozy, Little House on the Prairie–style domesticity of their “little piece of paradise” couldn’t keep danger at bay, as when a tree fell and broke Sam’s back. In this memoir, Ward strikes a good balance between repetitive daily tasks—foraging, canning meat, making blueberry jam, milking goats and sewing leather garments—and more momentous events, such as an earthquake, a view of the Northern Lights, and run-ins with bears. She also uses a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, to provide much comic relief. Along the way, Ward emphasizes the spiritual as well as the practical implications of becoming a pioneer woman: “The wilderness made me who I am today….Although I remained far from the nearest church, I felt closer to God than ever before.” The descriptions of nature sometimes shade purple (“Autumn showed her brilliance by clothing the mountains in a skirt of tie-dyed glory”), but, more often than not, the language is restrained. The couple’s Alaskan odyssey lasted 15 years, so there’s still plenty of room for future sequels.
An often engaging story of outhouses, canned moose and bears—oh, my!
Review by Christina Freeburn
Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.
I was drawn to the setting and reading about a woman willing to go outside her comfort zone and live a life different from what she knew, and far from where she called home. Even though Bonnie was following her husband’s dream …originally… I found her strong and determined. She loved her husband and made the choice to follow his dreams, she was also making the choice based on her convictions and beliefs. I admired how she was willing to share her weak moments and fear. At times she was terrified and questioned the decision of moving to Alaska, but she didn’t allow fear to dictate her life.
I loved reading the details about the wilderness, Alaska, and the Wards simple life style. What I loved most was getting to know Bonnie and seeing everything through her eyes. She has such an open heart and honesty in her writing that I was drawn into story. I read non-fiction as I like seeing how the world, life, and situations are viewed by others. It gives me another way to look at the world … and at times encourages me to reevaluate what I thought I knew about a situation in my own life. It makes me pause and look past my view and consider how the someone else might perceive it.
There was an event that happened in the book (I won’t elaborate as I don’t want to give it away) involving a neighbor that I first felt wasn’t fully addressed. I wanted to know how Bonnie came to terms with and what was said to the neighbor after the incident. I was confused why it was never brought up again. It dawned on me that the reason Bonnie didn’t mention it again in the books was because she forgave. It wasn’t an easy forgiveness. She shared her anger, heartbreak and how she struggled with it. Bonnie also shared how she opened up to God and prayed about it and was able to forgive her neighbor.
I realized Bonnie didn’t mention the incident again because she was showing forgiveness. It wasn’t because the author forgot to “tie it up” for readers, or an “editing” issue (as I’ll admit was my first thought) but that is how forgiveness works. It isn’t dwelt on. Isn’t rehashed even in the mind. It’s done. Over. Bonnie’s ability to forgive so truly is what I admire most about her and left me in awe. I hope one day I can have that type of “pure” forgiving nature that the incident doesn’t need a big act of closure on it for it to be done. I’d like for “I forgive” to be enough.
Winds of Skilak Review by Christina Freeburn can be seen on her blog: The Self Rescue Princess. Link below!
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