Polson's North of Hope was my latest read from the BookSneeze program. I was very excited to read about the author's journey which takes us through the Alaskan wilderness as Polson retraces the steps her father and stepmother took before their unfortunate death by a grizzly bear. Although this is a story worthy of sharing, I found Polson's writing style slow and boring, which made for a rather rough read. Not only is Polson's writing style hard to get through, but the topic is rather dark (obviously) and difficult to swallow. Therefore, the act of reading through this sad and tragic story was rather trying.
I feel as though this could be a good book for someone to read if they, too, are experiencing loss or trying to cope with the death of a loved one. However, I urge you to first search for other texts to lift your spirits because this book doesn't seem to resolve with a happy ending. In fact, I'm not sure that Polson ever resolves anything at all. We seem to be left in the dark concerning whether Polson found her trip helpful in coping with the death of her loved ones.
Overall, although this is an intriguing story and one certain worthy of being told, it is very slow paced and the author's writing style makes it difficult to read. I would recommend it to individuals currently dealing with loss, but would urge you to not make it your only source of comfort.
North of Hope A Daughter's Arctic Journey is written by Shannon Huffman Polson. After Shannon's father and stepmother Kathy are killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska, Shannon travels to Alaska to retrace their journey. As Shannon tells the story of her journey, which includes her adopted brother Ned and his friend, she recalls anecdotes about her father and her life growing up with him. Towards the end of the journey,(after a violent confrontation with her brother), Shannon starts to feel acceptance of the situation and states that this acceptance is how she will honor her father and stepmother.
My thoughts: I felt a little depressed reading this book. I also didn't understand why she would travel with her brother Ned when they seemed to have a contentious relationship, but maybe it was meant to happen because after the confrontation with Ned, Shannon experienced a new loss of relationship and a new sadness. She then decided to choose joy over pain and gratitude over grief. And for the first time, prompted by greater losses, she could let go. I'm glad I read the book to the end because it does end on a positive note and happiness for Shannon.
"I wasn't sure whether I'd come to this wild space to find myself or lose myself, or whether I had the capacity for either." ~ Shannon Huffman Polson
North of Hope tells the true story of Shannon Huffman Polson, whose father and step mother were tragically killed by bears while rafting and camping in the remote Alaskan Arctic. Ms Polson decides to undergo a life-changing journey, both figuratively and literally, by leaving her home in Seattle and traveling to the Arctic to re-trace her father's steps. She writes in great detail about both the trip and her emotional experiences in coming to terms with the loss while she's there, as well as weaving in back story all throughout the book.
The author has a lovely, almost poetic, style of writing, and the book is very rich in vivid imagery. I truly felt like I was experiencing the journey with her, as her descriptions of both the Alaskan wilderness and her mental state at the time were clear, specific, and painstakingly transcribed. The emotional anguish of the trip was palpable, especially in the latter quarter of the book, as she gets closer and closer to the spot where her father camped and ultimately died.
Unfortunately, the book's strength proved to be a weakness as well. At times the detail was so great and so lengthy that it bogged the book down, and made certain sections drag unnecessarily. I found myself reading with great interest on minute, and then skimming the next.
However, as it was by all accounts a very intimate and personal story, it doesn't seem too fair to nitpick its delivery. This was her journey, and I admire her strength and tenacity in both choosing to take it at all, and then so beautifully sharing it with others.
*I received this book from Zondervon and Handlebar Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Shannon Huffman Polson is a virtuoso. She writes with such brilliance, as she weaves her story of loss and hope. She takes you on her pilgrimage through the Alaskan Artic in search for answers. Her experiences will leave you breathless, in wonder and awe.
I love memoirs like this one, written with such depth, thoughtfulness and creativity. Besides which, Shannon Huffman Polson is an extraordinary writer.
I highly recommend North of Hope, it is brilliant. One of the best memoirs I have read in a long time.