Friday, April 5, 2013

North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson - REVIEWED

About the Book:
After her parents are killed in a rare grizzly attack, the author is forced into a wilderness of grief. Turning to loves she learned from her father, Polson explores the perilous terrain of grief through music, the natural world, and her faith. Her travels take her from the suburbs of Seattle to the concert hall where she sings Mozart's Requiem, and ultimately into the wilderness of Alaska's remote Arctic and of her heart. 

This deeply moving narrative is shot through with the human search for meaning in the face of tragedy. Polson's deep appreciation for the untamed and remote wilderness of the Alaskan Arctic moves her story effortlessly between adventure, natural history, and sacred pilgrimage, as much an internal journey as a literal one. Readers who appreciate music or adventure narratives and the natural world or who are looking for new ways to understand loss will find guidance, solace, and a companionable voice in this extraordinary debut.

My Thoughts:
Some are here for the music, some are here for prayer.  I am here for both.  I need the music to pierce me, the prayer to bleed me.  I am here because I don’t know what to say, how to ask, how to address this God I’ve known for so long when parts of me are dead.  I only know I need to pray.  And I need the music to do it for me.”  (p. 43)

Shannon is facing a grief that threatens to overwhelm her ability to reach out to the God she has worshipped in faith and trust most of her life.  Now, losing her parents to a violent grizzly attack, she decides to face the same terrain, travel the same journey her parents faced before they met their end.  Her description of the grief she so wants to face and overcome is gut-wrenching.  Some passages felt like a gut-punch.  Truly, she was looking at the world through an entirely new lens.  She was desperate to find life again.

What I find beautiful, sad and real about this story is that Shannon is able to find the beauty of creation that surrounds her.  She faces the same animal that destroyed her parents in  unexpected ways.  She learns that sometimes there are no answers for the why that grief asks.  And that’s okay.

North of Hope is an appropriate title for this book.  It is a place where we all find ourselves at some point in our lives.  The journey out of grief is unique for everyone, and Shannon poetically describes her experience.  This book is beautifully painful and well worth the read!

About the Author:       
Shannon Huffman Polson writes about the borders we navigate every day. Her first book, a memoir called "North of Hope," is due out in the spring of 2013 from Zondervan/Harper Collins. Her essays and articles appear in a number of literary magazines and periodicals and her work is anthologized in "More Than 85 Broads" and the upcoming "Be There Now: Travel Stories From Around the World."
Polson was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and grew up loving the outdoors. After studying English Literature at Duke, she headed from the ivory tower to the tarmac of Ft. Rucker, AL, where she flew Apaches in the first crop of women attack helicopter pilots. An MBA at the Tuck School at Dartmouth transitioned her to five years in marketing at two companies. Now she's back in the books, and back in love. Polson has scuba dived on three continents, sky dived on two, and climbed the highest mountain in North America and Africa. When she's not writing, she can be found in the mountains of Washington and Alaska with her family, accompanied by their Alaskan husky, serving on the board of the Alaska Wilderness League, singing with a local choral group and participating as an active member of her church. In 2009 Polson was awarded the Trailblazer Woman of Valor award by Senator Maria Cantwell. Polson earned her MFA in Creative Non-fiction from Seattle Pacific University in August of 2012.

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