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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
 
Slow, Brilliant, Insightful
Atlas Shrugged

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Interesting, Adventurous
The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey


Having lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for 44 years, I was very anxious to read this book. It has an Alaskan theme and is touted as being written in the style of magical realism. I love literary fiction that is rich in characterization and language and this book has an abundance of both. It is bound to be one of the best books I'll read in 2012. The story is beautifully rendered and rich with metaphor. I could hardly bear to put it down.

Mabel and Jack are homesteaders who come to Alaska rather late in their lives. They are both close to fifty years old when they begin their Alaskan venture near the Wolverine river way in the backcountry. The story opens with Mabel contemplating suicide. She describes Alaska after her failed suicide attempt as a place of "beauty that ripped you open and scoured you clean so that you were left helpless and exposed, if you lived at all". She and Jack are growing apart rather than closer and she misses him desperately. Slowly, they become friends with their closest neighbors, Esther and George, and this helps Mabel some. However, she says of Jack, "they were going to be partners, she and Jack. This was going to be their new life together. Now he sat laughing with strangers when he hadn't smiled at her in years".

Mabel comes from an intellectual family - her father is a professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She feels lonely and empty in her cabin. Just before they came to Alaska she gave birth to a stillborn boy. This was one of the primary reasons she wanted to get away from her family. She felt they were always looking at her and judging her as wanting, talking about her as not being a strong woman. Jack is busy with clearing and farming the homestead and he won't let Mabel help with this. He sees her job as staying in the house to cook, clean and bake her pies. They are barely making ends meet and Jack is contemplating taking a part-time job in a mine next year. Their situation is dire.

The wilderness is described in an awe-inspiring ferocity of beauty and fear

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