“Alaska makes everything ordinary impossible to bear.”
Alaska looms as a mythical, savage place—part nature preserve, part theme park, and too vast to understand fully, as C.B. Bernard learned when he lashed his canoe to his truck and traded the comforts of the Lower 48 for a career as a reporter on an island in the Inside Passage. Immersing himself in a state that had little in common with his native New England, he learned that a distant relation had made a similar trek north and west a century earlier. Captain Joe Bernard spent decades sailing the Arctic in his schooner Teddy Bear, enduring shipwrecks, horrific winters, and starvation, living among the Eskimo and Inuit, and giving his name to landmarks across the north—and even a now-extinct species of wolf.
Chasing the legacy of this explorer, hunter, and trader up the family tree, C.B. tracked his correspondence, located artifacts donated to museums, and recovered his journals, which he used as guides while boating to remote islands, hiking distant forests, and hunting and fishing the pristine environment. During his own time in Alaska, he formed a landscape view of the place that had lured him and “Uncle Joe,” two men anchored beneath the Northern Lights in freezing, far-flung waters separated only by time. Here, in crystalline prose, is his moving portrait of the Last Frontier, then and now. Discover the wilds and wonders of Alaska through the eyes of two men a century apart.
“The stories are gripping in the way the best adventure writing is, with enough danger and discovery to keep the reader turning pages way past bedtime. There are polar bears and seasons of privation, plenty of political intrigue and tensions between rival explorers. … Indeed, the real protagonist is Alaska itself, which ‘makes everything ordinary impossible to bear.’ Thanks to C.B. Bernard’s assured storytelling and vibrant prose style, we understand that sentiment very well.” —Peter Geye, Minneapolis Star Tribune
- Finalist for a 2014 Oregon Book Award (Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction)
- A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Pick
- A National Geographic Top 10 Pick
- A Bask Magazine Top Pick
- A North Shore Magazine Summer Pick
- Excerpted in the Utne Reader