Review of North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson

From the publisher: 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.

My Review: 

Shannon Polson’s life is forever changed when she receives news that her parents have been killed by a rogue bear on a camping trip. Unable to bear her grief, and seeking closure, she throws caution to the wind as she determines to re-trace her parents’ journey through the Alaskan wilderness.

Reading the vivid, near poetic, accounts of the terrain- the wind-swept grasses and the roar of the icy-cold rapids, I felt almost as though I had been there myself; while the pain, the confusion and struggles of loss that the author went through cut me to the bone. I have known the pain of loss several times in my life, though to lose a parent, to me, is beyond imagining. I found myself tearing up from time to time as I made my way through the book, in between smiles at the shreds of wisdom, and sheer awe at the descriptions of grandeur and the beauty in the land.

I really enjoyed this story, it is a fantastic example of the type of book that I like to read- it takes you on a journey, it makes you think, but most importantly it makes you feel. Heartfelt and sincere in a way that no writer could ever produce except by plumbing the depths of grief and experiencing, personally, the raw emotions of true loss, Polson produces a small gem of beauty to inspire… as she says in her book “suffering stretches the heart, so that after it heals, it can hold more love.” A truly beautiful book!

Rating: 5 stars


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