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Edges of the Earth: A Man, a Woman, a Child in the Alaskan Wilderness Hardcover – October, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1981 Leo, weary of New York City, persuaded his girlfriend to escape with him into the Alaskan wilderness. He built a homestead on a ridge near Mount McKinley, a spot so remote there are no people nor roads for 100 square miles; building supplies had to be dropped by helicopter. Leo tells the story of his odyssey to this beautiful land: how he learned to be self-sufficient, construct a log house, manage a team of sled dogs. He also describes the deterioration of his relationship wtih Melissa, who made a valiant effort to adjust but was eventually defeated by the isolation. When she departed, soon after the birth of their son, Janus, whom she left behind, she shattered his dream of living as a family in the wilderness. Today the author spends much of the year in the woods with his son. Leo's absorbing story is filled with adventure as well as emotion.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Leo and his lover, Melissa, quit their New York jobs in 1981 and move to a remote region of Alaska. Through luck, chutzpa, tenacity, and occasional jobs in Anchorage, Leo manages to stick it out. Unable to bear isolation, Melissa departs. Leo is left with the task of raising their young son, Janus, as a "wilderness child." While Leo's account of this homesteading is touted as "a true story," it reads as smoothly as a novel. Leo, sometimes poetic and often comic, writes superbly of his encounters with the people, fauna, extreme weather, and especially the breathtaking beauty of Alaska. Highly recommended. BOMC and Quality Paperback Book Club Alternate; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/91.
- J.F. Husband, Framingham State Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (October 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805015752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805015751
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,282,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book, a true tale of the ultimate daydreamer's adventure taking on flesh and bones through the personal experiences of the young author, Richard Leo. In many ways the effort is a foolhardy and dangerous ones, and one comes to points of exasperation with his arrogance, frenzies, and almost mystical sensibilities as he turns from a 20's something Harvard-educated urban dweller with less than $1,000 to his name into some kind of hopped-up Alaskan mountain man. This guy actually drags his girl friend deep into the Alaskan wilderness to begin a life of what he hopes will be the real sensations and genuine life experiences of someone unfettered by civilization, and succeeds almost beyond belief. They single-handedly construct a log cabin good enough to live in, forage for food, and finds a way to eke out a living as they struggle to survive. Along the way they have a son, who the author feels he must give the opportunity to grow up naturally, without all the cultural distractions of the modern world.
Of course, there is a price to pay for such bold and foolhardy adventurism, and Leo pays it by way of isolation, deprivation, and dealing with the elements. Before the smoke clears, his girlfriend/wife has exhausted her patience and tolerance for the difficult living conditions and the incredible isolation, and flees in desperation back to something better approximating normal human contact and civilization. Thus Leo and son are left to find their own truths and their own future in the splendid isolation of the Alaskan tundra in sight of Mount McKinley.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Through Leo's adventures in the city as well as the bush... He writes about his life like it was the greatest thing sence sliced bread. All who like Alaska should read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By anon on July 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hard to rate this now. It was a 5 star book when I read it. But after travelling to AK and actually meeting people who know Leo, I find myself very disappointed. Suffice it to say he is a bit of an exaggerator. Like- didn't really climb Denali alone. Had a lot more help than he admits. Treated Melissa poorly at best. Having thus lost respect for him as a person and author, the book becomes less inspirational. But, it got me to Alaska, and Alaska itself kept me here, so that's worth a couple stars right? : )
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 2, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a dream story. The author does something all of us think about at one time or another - quitting the desk job, grabbing the wife/girlfriend and headingn out to parts unknown for a while. In this case, parts unknown was Alaska and Richard Leo was determined to stay.
Over the course of the book his girlfriend can't take it (don't blame her after listening to all their trials and tribulations) and he keeps his son. The parts of the story dealing with the boy, his reactions to such an upbringing, their relationship are without a doubt the best in the book. As far as is known, he is still in the backwoods of Alaska living the life of a wilderness survivor. More power to him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was throughly enjoyable from cover to cover. It's about a couple that leave New York and moves to Alaska. They know nothing about survival in the Alaska wilderness but somehow they learn and make a go of it. I'd love to see a follow up book! If you like wilderness adventures, dog sledding, nature, and survival stories...you should enjoy this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The edges of the earth is must reading for those of us who find North American society a greedy, consumer-driven regime which must be avoided whenever possible; for author Richard Leo chronicles exactly how this can be achieved. Leo's inspirational story of escaping to find a new life in the Alaskan wilderness will have you sitting on the edge of your imagination at times and marvelling at the spirit that lies inside all of us if we reach deep enough. Disillusioned with the mundane rat race of New York, Leo chucks it all in for the unknown wilds of Alaksa with $900 in savings and an extremely resourceful mind. Eventually he literally carves a new life for himself in the Alaskan wilderness, far from the shallow trappings of the society he escaped. His journey is a difficult and heroic one and well worth reading about. Leo's story appeals on many levels, from the psychological to the physical and at its simplest, details what happens when a man tries to strip life down to the barest essentials. Leo shows us the frightening beauty that can exist in the basic struggle to survive on a sometimes hostile planet. Great stuff!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Kearns TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 3, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of those books you will find yourself thinking of long after you have finished it. Rick's escape to the wilderness is better than most accounts because he appears so human. As a city boy, he makes mistakes and he admits he had no idea how to do many of the tasks their survival depended on. He learns, through trial and error, and in the process becomes the wilderness man you read about in other books (as if they came shrink-wrapped with all the instincts and skills already installed). You also feel very bad for Rick and his girlfriend, as their relationship unravels and they ultimately split up. I'm sure Melissa comes out looking worse since Rick is telling the story, but I did want to slap her for being so selfish. Then finally you love the story of a man and his son - it's so obvious that Janus is the center of Rick's world. I loved this book and look forward to reading it again. I highly recommend this book to anyone who dreams of ditching their suburban life and taking off for the wilderness.
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