BOOK REVIEW: NORTH OF HOPE by SHANNON HUFFMAN POLSON

About the book . . . After her parents are killed in a rare grizzly attack, the author is forced into a wilderness of grief. Turning to loves she learned from her father, Polson explores the perilous terrain of grief through music, the natural world, and her faith. Her travels take her from the suburbs of Seattle to the concert hall where she sings Mozart’s Requiem, and ultimately into the wilderness of Alaska’s remote Arctic and of her heart.

This deeply moving narrative is shot through with the human search for meaning in the face of tragedy. Polson’s deep appreciation for the untamed and remote wilderness of the Alaskan Arctic moves her story effortlessly between adventure, natural history, and sacred pilgrimage, as much an internal journey as a literal one. Readers who appreciate music or adventure narratives and the natural world or who are looking for new ways to understand loss will find guidance, solace, and a companionable voice in this extraordinary debut.

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Reader review . . . 

Life can change in an instant.  For Shannon Polson, it was June 25, 2005, when she received the phone call from Alaska that her father and stepmother had been killed by a grizzly bear.  A year later, she embarked on a journey to retrace their last steps and hopefully come to terms with their senseless deaths.
This is a profoundly personal book.  The author shares her grief with us as we travel along on her pilgrimage through the wilds of Alaska.  At times, her sorrow is unbearable to read.  It is a grief so strong as to be palpable.  The moment when they sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” while standing at the casket took my breath away.  I rarely cry over books, but this scene brought me to tears, as did the following lines:
How do you know what word will be the last word?  How could you know you should hold onto it, lock it away?
This was not a book to be read in one setting.  At times, I had to put it down and walk away.  But I continued to return, because, having begun the journey, I had to finish.
The story begins with the call, and then the chapters switch from the story of her pilgrimage to the story of the chorale rehearsals of Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor”.  The use of music throughout the book aids in the telling of her story.  
Again, this is not a frivolous or humorous memoir, but don’t let that frighten you away.  The healing and peace that the author finds and shares is worth making the journey with her.  My advice:  find time to be along, set the box of Kleenex next to you, and begin to read.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Novel Publicity book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

   

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