My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a rare pleasure and treasure! A novel that succeeds as a thriller, as literature, as travel guide and as love story: love of place as well as love of family and romance. Kache's mom and dad and brother all died in the same plane crash and survivor's guilt drove him from his native Alaska for 20 years. Now his aunt has called him to face the past.
She told him no one had checked on his family's remote, isolated home in all that time, but when he gets close, he sees smoke coming from the chimney. Nadia has been living there in hiding for the last ten years, no contact with the outside world. Kache's return brings both redemption and danger to the family he's got left, and the family he hopes to build.
Halverson manages to pull off great characters in youth, midlife, and old age. Though diverse in most ways, they all ring true. I enjoyed the story as a thriller: what or who is Nadia hiding from? What the heck is Kache hiding from? And Kache's remaining family are a big part of the story, too: his aunt and failing grandmother. There's gentle humor amid the elements of reconciliation and grief; there's coming to terms with changed perceptions, through maturing or compassion. Every family has its unspoken griefs and resentments...and unspoken forgivenesses, sometimes, too. It's also a true pleasure to have the state of Alaska, the landscape and attitudes, be a character intrinsic to the story. Alaska rings as authentic as in the Kate Shugak novels by Dana Stabenow, but Halverson sings her own tune beautifully. ~Em Maxwell
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