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Arctic Son: Fulfilling the Dream (Expedition) Paperback – November 1, 1996
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Aspen and her husband, Tom, took their young son to live in Alaska's interior wilderness, building a cabin out of logs, hunting for food, and letting the vast, harsh beauty of the Arctic close in around them. While Jean had faced Alaska's wilderness before -- in a life-altering experience she chronicled in Arctic Daughter -- this journey would be different. Dogged by sickness and hardships, cut off from the rest of the world, her family faced not only a test of endurance, but of its own well-being and survival....
From a daily struggle against the elements to an encounter with a grizzly bear at arm's length, from moments of breathtaking beauty and self-realization to a harrowing, six-hundred-mile river passage back to civilization, Arctic Son chronicles fourteen remarkable months in the Arctic. At once a portrait of courage and a heart-pounding adventure story, Arctic Son portrays a family's extraordinary journey into America's last frontier.
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But my impression throughout the book is that this was HER dream, and her husband and son were just along for the trip. Her son especially was unhappy, lonely, whiny, defiant and argumentative throughout their whole time there. He did backflips of joy when they returned to civilization. Even Tom told her he was ready for her to put her past aside, and that he was tired of living in it.
I rarely felt any affection or closeness between Jean and Tom. She was very concerned when he was sick, but mainly about what she would do if he died. She seems to be a middle aged force of nature, commander of the family, and the font of all knowledge. Even towards the end of the trip, when all three of them had weathered 14 months in the wilderness, it was Jean who looked at the river and commanded "let's go!" as if only her assessment of the river's safety was valid.
I was also somewhat taken aback by Jean's unflattering description of her husband. She describes herself with words like "direct, gray-green eyes", "strong jaw and high cheekbones, full lips and even teeth," "handsome" and even "considered beautiful". Meanwhile she describes Tom as "a bit heavy," asymmetrical face," "nose drifting off to one side," "balding", "unfashionably dressed" and wearing "thick glasses" for his myopic vision.
She also spouted an awful lot of New Age philosophy, especially with Luke, who would have benefited from a firm hand and decisive parenting. I found myself skimming pages to get to the wilderness living, while Jean philosophized about the meaning of life.
But overall, this book is a good read. I loved reading of how they built the cabin, and shot the moose and dried its meat. She's a whiz in the kitchen, turning out great meals with basic staples. She made the long dark winter and extreme cold seem real to her readers.
I gave this book three stars because I didn't care for her personality as much as I liked the adventures and the descriptions of their life in the middle of the Arctic.
She conveys the experience of living in the wilderness well and in enough detail that the reader can understand and appreciate what it is like to live there.
She carries some baggage and goes into too much detail concerning her gremlins, but then that is part of going into the wilderness. I don't have to agree with her or personally accept any of her philosophy.
It takes a huge commitment to go into the wilderness and live for a year or two or three. Certainly not my thing. A week or two is about it, got to get back to my work.
Its worth reading and enjoyable.
Thanks Jean and Tom
I recommend reading this if you are interested in exploring the world around you, especially the wild and frigid Arctic North.