From award-winning children’s author Gary Paulsen comes his latest (and last?) book, Northwind.
Leif is a young boy who has survived a cholera outbreak in his village but is now facing a bigger challenge – finding a way to survive as he lives in a canoe with water giants (Orcas and Humpbacks and Blue Whales) all around him. Leif can’t help but question whether or not he can go on, or even if it’s worth the effort. Meanwhile, the natural world around him comes more and more into focus, putting his role in the world into perspective.
In an odd and sad bit of kismet, I was only a couple of chapters into reading this book (as an ARC) when Gary Paulsen passed away. While I felt a pervading sense of sadness throughout the book, I can’t help but think I may have been projecting some of my own sadness at losing such an icon in the literary world.
While book does have a lot of the Paulsen hallmarks (boy against the wilderness), whereas books like Hatchet and Dogsong (two of my favorites) have similar themes, they are much more active stories. This is almost pastoral (except that this isn’t an idealized form of country life since the country village died of a plague).
While I don’t mind being asked to do some work, as a reader – I don’t need everything spelled out – there a few questions that loom large and by their not being recognized or answered, take away from the reading experience. Questions like: Where are we? When are we?
I think we’re along the coast of Norway maybe in the 1500’s? Maybe 500’s? But often Leif comes across as a very modern young man and the location feels very much like the Pacific Northwest. Is this a commentary on how little we’ve changed? If so, it’s not quite strong enough. if not, there’s too much suggesting just this.
I really appreciated the language, but I felt as lost as Leif and wasn’t sure what the point of that was.
Looking for a good book? Northwind by Gary Paulsen continues the author’s storytelling of a boy against and surviving in nature, but this time with a stronger water theme. It comes up just a bit short when compared to his more popular works.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
author: Gary Paulsen
publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
hardcover, 256 pages