Sunday, December 26, 2021


Paulsen, Gary. Northwind
January 11th 2022 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In an undetermined time somewhere along the Norwegian coast, there is a cholera epidemic on a fishing ship that kills most of the men aboard. Thanks to Old Carl, Little Carl and young Leif are put on a boat and told to go North to escape the disease. They don't get far before Little Carl dies in a very gruesome way, but Leif survives. It's not easy to survive in the wilderness with very few supplies, but he manages. He manages to make tools to catch and dry salmon, builds simple shelters, lights fires to dry out his boat, and deals with bears, eagles, crows, and orcas who don't have his best interests at heart. After years of being sold from ship to ship and being beaten and forced to work at unsavory, difficult jobs however, Leif enjoys the solitude and ability to just BE.
Strengths: This hits most of the survival book tropes that we are used to seeing from Paulsen, and also has a bit of a Julie of the Wolves vibe to it. The encounters in the wilderness with various wildlife, and the survival skills that Leif must employ are all solid, and his journey to inner peace through the wilderness experience will resonate with some readers. Leif's backstory of hard work and abuse echoes Paulsen's own experiences that we saw in Gone to the Wild. A touching afterword indicates that this book was inspired by tales Paulsen's grandmother told him when he lived with her at the cook camp as a small child, and that he has been working on this book most of his life. 
Weaknesses: The beginning is a bit confusing, and very gory. It also seemed odd that Leif didn't run into any people. If he's going along the coast, wouldn't there be a lot of fishing villages?
What I really think: This might well be the last Gary Paulsen book, but I may have to pass on this one. 

A little concerned that everyone is just going to buy this without reading it. It's written in an odd style, sort of James Joyce meets Ernest Hemmingway, and is very, very descriptive about the effects of a plague on some sailors and two young boys. This is from the e ARC, about 26 pages in. 

"Jammed in paralyzed rigor into the bow was the deceased body of the small boy—Little Carl—covered in released stomach and anal gore. While farther back, pushed equally hard into the stern, Leif huddled and, though he was panting shallowly, breathing with great effort in short, soft gasps—he was lying on his face, unconscious, and appeared to be equally dead. As in the bow, the stern’s horror-mess around Leif was made up of what had been in his stomach, faint streaks of blood, bile, and bits of smoked fish."

Read and decide for yourself. 

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear. Should have guessed that when one of the reviews calls it "spare survival-oriented prose." Maybe they'll edit it a little more before it's released next April? The cover looks so good though...