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Portage: A Family, a Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life Paperback – October 15, 2015
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"Read Sue Leaf’s Portage as a guidebook to canoeing or how to raise a family, as a natural history, as a meditation on the significance of wild places, as an intimate portrayal of a marriage. Leaf combines them all."—Kent Meyers, author of The Witness of Combines and Twisted Tree
"Even those who’ve never dipped a paddle will be pulled into Sue Leaf’s rich and surprising tale about the true nature of wilderness as seen from the seat of a canoe. Rich details and refreshing honesty bring her journeys to life. It’s as if I were in the canoe with her, minus the bugs, the spills, and the dangers that come from venturing into the wilderness."—Catherine Friend, author of Hit by a Farm and Sheepish
"Take your pick of reasons to read Sue Leaf’s Portage—for a glimpse into the experience of canoeing the region’s water roads, for insights into ecology, to see how a love for wild places can be passed along from generation to generation, for a darn good story. If, like me, you mark the margins of your books for special passages you want to remember, get your pencil ready."—Laurie Allmann, author of Far from Tame: Reflections from the Heart of a Continent
"Leaf ably interfaces her personal narratives with historical facts and natural details of the more than 25 lakes and rivers she has paddled. Pleasant outdoors stories that will appeal to nature lovers, avid canoeists, and armchair travelers."—Kirkus Reviews
"This well-written book evokes the feeling of exploring one of the continent’s wildest forests."—Nature World News
"Leaf is a thoughtful, observant writer, and these 28 essays, while steeped in nature, are also about much more — family, and fear, and adventure."—Star Tribune
"A great read for anyone who enjoys paddling."—Northern Wilds
"Sue Leaf is one of the most elegant writers about nature and the environment. She shows her talents again in Portage."—Pioneer Press
"It was like a good canoe outing-- you looked forward to what was in the next lake or bend (or chapter), you felt the joy of moving along and, at the end, you were both sorry it was over and thankful for the memories."—Rochester Post-Bulletin
"Insightful, peaceful memoir about years of canoeing in the area’s lakes and river, with observations on plants, animals, traveling with children and ecological degradation."—Pioneer Press
"Leaf does a wonderful job guiding us visually and experientially through the lakes she herself has canoed. Vivid descriptions of the land and the wildlife paint clear visions of the scenery that she was fortunate enough to see. Fascinating and comical anecdotes featuring the historical figures who visited some of the lakes, capsized canoes, stormy lakes, and long paddles lend color and excitement to the story."—Cook County News-Herald
About the Author
Sue Leaf is the author of Potato City: Nature, History, and Community in the Age of Sprawl. Her books The Bullhead Queen: A Year on Pioneer Lake and A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts, both from Minnesota, were finalists for Minnesota Book Awards. A trained zoologist, she writes frequently on environmental topics. She and her husband Tom have paddled the waters of North America for forty years.
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Sue Leaf's created a paddling guide that takes you beyond the overused Boundary Waters Canoe area. Instead we finesse dozens of little used waterways like the Missouri, Fox and Marias.
Most wonderfully, you will feel an ode to the natural world that she conducts deeply and instinctively. How blessed we are to have someone passionately detailing the habitats of the Northern Harrier, Kirtland's Warbler and Hermit Thrush. At the same time, Leaf paints the historic details of Father Marquette's canoe-based religious road show, Canada's Group of Seven art movement and the slow death of Nellie Lake by acid rain.
Some authors and editors don't believe in maps, pushing the reader to imagine where the oxbows and rapids unfold through words. But I love maps and think stylized versions would be a great addition to Portage. Then I could see just where the Kickapoo and Au Sable run, what species are there and key historic features.
I love Sue Leaf's last book, A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts, and refer to it often. The binding on my copy of Portage is already broken from several readings. That is good, because I won't worry about bringing it along on our next canoe trip.