It’s been quite the hot summer — it has many of us dreaming of going even further north to catch some cool breezes and gain additional daylight hours to play in. Alaska beckons!
Alaska is vast, beautiful and unforgiving. Many men (and a few women) have been lured to Alaska by its beauty and its promise of gold.
In Alaska, nature can be cruel or kind. One of its most cruel moments in modern memory is the 1964 earthquake, which lasted for a deadly five minutes at 9.2 on the Richter scale. The story of Alaska’s recovery from the devastation it caused is told in Bad Friday: The Great and Terrible 1964 Alaska Earthquake.
Nature’s kindness is reflected in two of Alaska’s many great resources — fish and gold. For an account of the politics, power and money behind the fishing industry that fuels Alaska’s economy, check out The Billion-Dollar Fish: The Untold Story of Alaska Pollock. It’s about Alaska, but also about where our food comes from and how we need to think about sustainability and the environment. As for gold, there’s nothing like the Alaska Gold Rush for drama and adventure! Add a touch of mystery and you have The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush. Author Blum tells the story by focusing on three colorful true-life characters and their experiences.
Weather and the stark landscape play a huge role in fiction about the Last Frontier state. In a lyrical tribute to Alaska’s dangerous loveliness, Liam Callanan’s The Cloud Atlas (not to be confused with David Mitchell’s book of the same name) tells the little-known story of Japanese balloon bombs landing in Alaska during World War II and one lonely young bomb-disposal sergeant. Balloon bombs, crafted in Japan out of rice paper, carried their deadly payload with a unique beauty and grace, much like the deceptively gorgeous snowy landscape of the North.
In The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton, World War II journalist John Easley travels to Alaska ostensibly to report on the rumor of an impending enemy attack on the Aleutian Islands, but also to find his missing brother. While aboard an American bomber flying over the islands, Easley and the crew are shot down and forced to make their way through frigid waters to an island occupied by the Japanese. During his months of hiding in a cave, Easley comes to terms with his circumstances and losses.
If you are traveling to Alaska and want an entertaining fictional state history, try James Michener’s Alaska. And if you’d prefer a little fantasy with your historical fiction, fall into Michael Chabon’s alternative history-cum-murder mystery, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Finally, sample Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, a Russian folktale retold in which a couple homesteading in 1920s Alaska adopts a little girl they find wandering in the wilderness in the company of a red fox.
~ Posted by Ann G. and Jen B.