This review is going to include a little bit about my May trip to Alaska, so there’s a warning to you. I tried to write this review without my experience, but that seemed silly. I bought this book in Alaska, because I was in Alaska, so here goes.

Whenever I travel, I try to buy a book set in the place I’m visiting. I think I’ve said this before – I couldn’t find the right book on this year’s Tampa trip, though this one is always perfect for a Florida trip – or for anything, really. It’s a scream.

The day after I landed in Anchorage, I borrowed my college roommate’s car (I stayed with her for the week) and drove to Title Wave Books. Not only is that a fantastic name for a bookstore, but it was a very cool place, selling both new and used titles. Plus, I figured I’d find the right book when they have a section like this:

It went on for rows – history, fishing, birding, novels, Sarah Palin, other assorted Palins. My first choice was Pipelineby Milt Machlin, a novel written in 1976 that fictionalized the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. But I figured if I was going to learn about the pipeline, I’d be better off reading non-fiction, or visiting the exhibit on it at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, which is what I did.

Instead, I chose Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaskaby Miranda Weiss, a memoir about an east coaster who moves to Homer, Alaska with her boyfriend.

What a gorgeous book. And it’s not just the setting because, as I learned on my trip, Alaska is stunning beyond words.

But she also managed to wrap her story around the history of state, and of Homer, in such a way that I didn’t realize she was doing it until I was half way through the book. This wasn’t some rote history. It was the story of a state and one woman trying to find her way in it. She learns to catch salmon, build a kayak, live in total darkness, and live in total light. It’s also a memoir by a young woman and a young man without being an “OMG DATING!!!!” book that seems so popular these days. A passage: “It would take a year before those questions became clear, but much longer to realize that it was way too easy to pick up a man’s dream, his measure of the world, rather than fashion one of your own.” Thud, right to my gut.

While I bought Tide, Feather, Snow in Alaska, I didn’t really get into it until I was home, and it was a great book to read after the trip. It also helped me understand a bit of what my college roommate went through when she, a native Floridian, moved to Alaska after she got married. Of course, the experience is not the same, but I can see now why she stayed, not just after my weeklong visit (and yes I plan to go back) but in reading about someone who came, and decided to stay too.

More pictures from my trip? I can do that.

Pizza from the Moose’s Tooth
It’s always Miller Time, everywhere
There might be bear…novelty items at this roadside cafe
A glacier that is not as big as it used to be
Hello moose
Hello big, scary bear
Hello, Rudolf. I had a reindeer dog a few days later. It was delicious. 
Goodbye, Alaska

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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