Monday, March 4, 2019

Book Review: This Much Country

By Jami Deise

As a Florida gal, I was never that interested in Alaska until I read Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. That amazing novel gave me an appreciation for the state and its resilient community of nature-loving residents.

I still hate the cold, though. To me, it’s cold if it’s under 78 degrees.

Author Kristin Knight Pace does not hate the cold, but one thing she and I have in common is being jilted in a painful, life-altering divorce. Hers drove her to Alaska – mine drove me three miles away from a beach home I loved. Still, her memoir, This Much Country, was inspiring even for heat-loving, electricity-appreciating, one-dog-at-a-time readers like myself.

Even before her big move, Pace was always a risk-taker, embracing the outdoors and moving cross-country after high school to live with a boy she’d met on the internet. She marries him and lives a full, adventurous life with work and dogs in Montana until that day in 2009 when Alfred tells he he’s met someone else and wants a divorce. Lost and heartbroken, Pace accepts an offer to live in a friend’s Alaska cabin for a few months rent-free in exchange for taking care of his sled dogs.

It’s a decision that changes the trajectory of her life.

As a writer, Pace isn’t much prone to introspection. Her feelings are portrayed through action rather than thought. Still, the actions are impressive enough that the mental hand-wringing isn’t missed. While life in Alaska isn’t quite as bleak as described in Hannah’s novel, it’s still plenty cold and plenty challenging. It’s no big deal to accidentally leave your boots in your car overnight in the lower 48, but in Alaska, it could be the difference between life and death, or at least life and frostbite.

Since the Amazon synopsis reveals it, it’s not a spoiler to say that Pace ends up remarrying and participating in the two biggest dog-sled races in Alaska. Her grueling training and dog-care regime, and her willingness to face her fears and conquer them to reach her goals, are the most compelling parts of the book.

I have no desire whatsoever to do anything as grueling as a 5K, much less the Iditarod, but reading about Kristin’s triumphs was definitely motivating. As an outdoor gal and dog-lover, that race was the pinnacle of Pace’s life. What is your personal Iditarod? This Much Country might encourage you to find out.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

No comments: