Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ordinary Wolves

My friend Marti lent me this really great book recently, Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner. This book took me into a world that I had never even imagined previously, the high arctic in Alaska. A long time ago I read Two in the Far North, Mardy Murie's autobiography about Alaska (also an amazing book) and this reminded me a little of that world. But Kantner's Alaska is full of modern contradictions - the white family living in an igloo while modern Inuits live in drafty houses in town. The book is full of amazing imagery of living out on the tundra in Alaska, subsisting on caribou meat and little else. Then on top of the simple physical descriptions there is a whole cultural subplot of the only white kids in a native world plus the main character's journey into modern America when he goes to Juneau.

The book is very literary with writing that can occasionally be difficult to follow. The story is told through the voice of two main characters, a white boy growing up with his dad, brother and sister in an igloo in remote Alaska, and the wild wolves that surround them.

I have never read another book like this one. It completely immersed me in a foreign world that was very far outside of my previous experience. A fascinating read for anyone interested in wilderness, Alaska, wildlife, the modern adaptations of native societies, how native Alaskan might have lived in the past, the costs of modern culture, and on and on. Read It!!

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