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Arctic Homestead: The True Story of One Family's Story of Survival and Courage in the Alaska Wilds Hardcover – October 20, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cobb holds a little-known but significant place in American history. As the last woman to claim land under the Homestead Act, in the 1970s, she was America's "last official woman pioneer." Using a direct, honest style that gives her writing an authentic frontier feel, Cobb, writing with Sasser (Fire Cops), relates the story of how she and her family of six "proved" their claim in northern Alaska. Over the course of the book, Cobb is transformed from a small-town girl into the driving force behind a courageous, isolated family braving the dangers of the Arctic wilderness. Through their ingenuity, determination and faith, the Cobbs endured the five years allotted by the government to improve their land, surviving harsh winters, bear and wolf attacks, money problems and degenerate neighbors who tried to kill them. Interspersed among stories about the hazards of living near the Arctic Circle are poignant family moments that reveal the affectionate side of these tough pioneers. In addition to Cobb, the reader meets many interesting characters, from the legendary Bushman (aka Bigfoot) to gun-slinging locals who would seem more at home a century earlier. Among them is Cobb's husband, Lester, of whom locals say, "If you had a choice between fighting an enraged Grizzly or taking on Lester Cobb, you might be safer choosing the bear." Cobb's voice combines the ruggedness of the frontier with the tenderness of a caring mother, resulting in an appealing, and enjoyably quick, read. 8-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Turn off the TV, throw a log on the fire, unpack your dreams. This is the real thing: a farewell account of our greatest myth about ourselves, the frontier myth. Norma Cobb writes with a skinning knife and gun stock, with bear grease and shards of river ice---a memoir as wild, engaging, stubborn, and authentic as that distant valley where her family staked out the last plot in America. (John Balzar, author of Yukon Alone)

Cobb's voice combines the ruggedness of the frontier with the tenderness of a caring mother, resulting in an appealing, and enjoyably quick read. (Publishers Weekly)

Her story exhibits her strength and sheer willpower to make it work. (Oregonian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (October 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312261985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312261986
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

240 of 264 people found the following review helpful By Ken Nelson on January 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Arctic Homestead is a simply written collection of short stories that chronicles the struggles of the Cobb family as they "prove up" their homestead. It is very light reading and should not take more than an afternoon to read through. While it will not go down as a great book, it does provide some entertaining reading. There are certainly better and more accurate books written about homesteading in the bush of Alaska, but this book does give the reader a sense of what interior Alaska was like in the mid to late 70's. Just take some of what you read with a healthy "grain of salt." This book is of particular interest to me because I lived with the Cobbs on their Lost Creek Ranch Homestead from June of 1978 to January of 1979. My name is Ken Nelson and my time with the Cobbs is erroneously summarized in Chapter 67. Norma mistakenly identifies this time as 1981.
Norma Cobb, as comes through clearly in the book, tends to be quite a paranoid individual. She always fears the worst is going to happen in any situation and almost instinctively distrusts anyone outside of her family. You will notice as you read the book that she also tends to manipulate facts in her stories to place her family in the best possible light.
Les is a driven man and is willing to bend the law and truth to fit his particular needs. While I always liked Les in spite of himself and generally admired Norma for her grit and determination to keep her family together in the wilderness, I was never fully able to accept that their way of getting ahead was right. Too many relationships were destroyed because of her paranoia and their willingness to destroy anyone and anything that might possibly threaten their way of life.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By R. Shaff on June 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been enthralled with the 'North Country' for quite some time; mainly Minnesota and Canada. After spending a summer in Northern Minnesota as a child, I felt I would make it back some day...hopefully to stay or at least build a vacation home. I'm not shy about sharing this 'dream' with close friends so it came as no surprise when a buddy of mine suggested I read ARCTIC HOMESTEAD before I became too giddy about the North.
Norma and Les Cobb came together in a second marriage for both, with the added baggage of 5 children between them. In an effort to make a life for themselves and their childre, they decided to leave the Lower 48 behind and claim a homestead in Canada. Along the way, they found out only a Canadian citizen could file for homestead in Canada at that time. Undeterred, they soon determined that Alaska still had homestead provisions so they set their sights for Alaska, a home and a new life.
Norma and Les find their previously unseen homestead just south of the Arctic Circle. Thus begins their story of striving to beat the homestead clock of improving the land and creating commerce within 5 years of filing the homestead papers. Along the way, they face one of their sons being accidentally shot, a derelict (and former friend) attempting to kill Les, coming face-to-face with black and grizzly bears, dealing with the Bushman (a/k/a Bigfoot), prospecting for gold, holding off ravenous wolves, and, of course, last but certainly not least, the indomitable cold and snow. Through it all, Norma and Les persevere and overcome each challenge faced.
This factual novel was written by Mr. Sasser, a very gifted storyteller, the source document of which was Norma's journal. Norma maintained enough detail to allow Mr. Sasser to write an extremely complete and entertaining novel.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Maureen on December 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have to agree with a previous reviewer. Although I am a dyed-in-the-wool city girl and wouldn't have it any other way, I love books such as this about lives in remote places.
Norma's story was terrific, but her pontificating tone really ruined it for me. In the last chapter she goes on and on about how American parents don't spend time with their children (as she, the perfect Norma, spent with hers), how worthless life is in the Lower 48 (how would she know??), blah, blah, blah.
Of course, I don't know many mothers, including myself, who would go off and work on the pipeline for an entire summer and leave her children basically unattended. I also don't think a responsible mother exposes her children to physical injury and hardship the way Norma did. I actually could not help thinking how selfish they were, considering some of the things their kids went through. From the sound of it, most of them did not receive a very good education and didn't seem to be excelling at much of anything (except for one son) as adults.
Also, she goes on about people depending on the government - I wonder who picked up the tab when her husband had the serious accident that damaged his eye? It's very unlikely that they had private health insurance, so Joe Taxpayer in the lower forty-eight probably paid for that!! I sure hope they pay taxes on their land now.
She really did ruin a good story with her holier-than-thou preaching. A little humility would have made this a perfect book.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By William E. Yost on November 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This may be a little prejudice but I've known Les and Norma for a few years now and I am excited that she she finally got her book published. You want to read a book that will make you fall out of the chair with laughter on one page and then the next make you cry. Buy the book and read it then read it again. It's that good. I mean you have family struggles, adventure, and guns. If I didn't know better I would swear it was a fictional story from the old west. Like I said I've known them a while and met most of their kids and I work with both Les and Norma. They're good honest people and I'm happy their story is finally out. Thank you Norma for the good book.
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