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North Country: A Personal Journey Through the Borderland Hardcover – May 15, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

To celebrate turning 50, Howard Frank Mosher took a trip through the North Country, the long northern border betwixt Canada and the United States. Old Elisha in Lubec, Maine, says "Us are the stubbornest people on the face of the earth, which we've had to be to survive at all." Journeying west through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, along the Manitoba and Saskatchewan borders and Montana's Breaks to Washington's Cascades, Mosher visited the self-sufficient bush pilots, game wardens, miners, and obstinate farmers who live off the harshly beautiful land. Mosher appreciates the rugged country, but he revels in the people.

From Library Journal

Satisfying a personal urge to explore the northernmost areas of the United States, novelist Mosher set out on a six-week adventure that took him from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. In this work, Mosher shares his discoveries on this fascinating journey in a short story-type narrative of 50 lively chapters. Through Mosher's chronicles, one learns a great deal about the history and people from the border areas, in both Canada and the United States, enabling readers to discover such places as Alberta's Cypress Hills and Maine's Madawaska Republic; we meet a variety of interesting personalities such as animal carver Jimmy Black Elk. Similar in motivation to David Lamb's Over the Hills (Random, 1996), Mosher's work is a celebration of America. The vivid descriptions, strong research, and entertaining anecdotes earn it a place in public libraries.?Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ontario
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (May 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395837073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395837078
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
North Country by Howard Mosher.

Review by
Jules Older

Howard Frank Mosher celebrated his 50th birthday by taking a trip. With his wife's blessing, he loaded the car, got himself some letters of introduction, and started across country, alone.

As autumn was approaching, a southern route might have made the most sense. But not for Mosher. Since childhood, when he and his uncles spent their summers fishing the rivers of Quebec, he'd been fascinated by the north country. So deep was his borealphilia that he'd settled down and raised his family in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, just a few miles south of the Canadian border. And now, as a 50th birthday present to himself, he set off to explore that border from one end of the country to the other.

In late August, he headed east into Maine, where "farmhouses still sport brown wreaths on their doors, left over from last Christmas." He drove past "listing, bullet-pocked drive-in theater screens no Technicolor presentation or titillating coming attractions have flashed across for years." He wistfully noted "semiabandoned main streets running quickly into the interchangeable edge-of-town commercial strips that the boarded-up downtown stores have defected to."

From the coast of Maine, Mosher pointed the car west. He'd stop whenever he found a reason to. The reasons included flying a light smuggling run with a Quebec bush pilot and learning tricks for catching poachers from an Acadian game warden. They included gaining a new perspective on gambling from a Mohawk leader and hearing local history from old-timers on both sides of the Canadian border.

Mosher also got some unwanted lessons. He was stopped by the U.S. Air Force near a missile silo marked, "Use of Deadly Force Authorized.
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Format: Paperback
Howard Frank Mosher is a gifted writer. His descriptions provoke the imagination into painting landscapes and portraits that the human eye ordinarily can't see. I found it literally impossible to put this book down, and I will definitely be reading the rest of Mosher's stories!
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Format: Paperback
In honor of his 50th birthday, Howard Mosher decided to take a solo journey exploring his home ground. His chosen turf is the "north country," the borderlands between the United States and Canada. Mosher traveled from Maine to Washington, meandering a few miles one either side of the border.
In this account of his odyssey, Mosher intersperses short anecdotes from his life as a resident and traveler in these areas, combined with mini-sketches of the people and places he encounters. Nobody and no place merits more than three pages of Mosher's spare prose. Mosher voices himself in the taciturn manner of the hardy border people. He strives for a rough-and-ready effect, implying that his itinerary was haphazard, and that his encounters were primarily ones of chance. I suspect that a lot more planning went into the trip than Mosher suggests.
My favorite chapter was the one on "fresh starts," in which Mosher profiled people who had left one life for another. For Mosher, traveling through places both familiar and completely new was its own form of fresh start.
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Format: Paperback
Howard Frank Mosher is known more for his novels, which are set in his home region of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. This book is instead a travel narrative, with additional slices of memoir tossed in. Mosher's plan is to drive along the U.S.-Canada border from Atlantic to Pacific, "looking for last frontiers" and places where "you could live in Canada and never know it." For six weeks, one August-September in the early 1990s, that's exactly what he does and what he finds.

The adventure leads Mosher from Lubec, Maine, to Blaine, Washington. Along the way he sees all kinds of sights and interviews all kinds of people: young and old, men and women, and residents and customs officials of both countries. What he finds overall is a resilience and a spirit of independence; and as a backdrop to it all, a northern inclination for fishing. It's a good thing he'd stowed one of his own rods in the car. The trip also gives him time to reminiscence about his own life back in Vermont, and what being a North Country person means to him, too.

As much as I love this book, I believe it has two snags. A minor one is that no maps accompany the text. I kept an open road atlas by my side as I read, so that I could track Mosher's travels back and forth across the border. The second and major omission occurs when the author makes a giant leap from Montreal to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, effectively ignoring all of southern Ontario. Yes, I understand that he is searching mostly for small towns, ruralness, and living with the wild; and for those areas where U.S. and Canadian soil actually touch (and are not separated by a Great Lake). But to ignore Niagara Falls and the Detroit-Windsor region are missteps, in my opinion. Granted, both are highly populated.
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