When I was 20, I went on a family cruise to Alaska. Having spent my entire life in Los Angeles and scarcely ever seeing a town smaller than San Diego, Alaska was a tremendous shock to the system. One port we visited had only just gotten Internet access the year prior. Another was a town with only four streets and no traffic lights. That kind of culture shock fascinates me.
I was hoping to find the same thing in Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska by Miranda Weiss, and was disappointed. This memoir takes Weiss from the modern suburbs of Washington D.C. to Homer, Alaska, without ever having seen the state. She follows a boyfriend up there, which seems like it would leave an awful lot of room for strife, but that is not the case at all. The boyfriend was just an excuse; Weiss has wanted to live in Alaska since a grade school report on the state. Weiss does, in fact, break up with the boyfriend at the end of the book, but even that is glossed over. I’m not even completely sure of the circumstances, as it was described in about half a paragraph – something about Weiss being overwhelmed by the idea of building a new home, or feeling smothered, or something like that. Weiss does end up remaining in Alaska, where she lives to this day.
The book is beautifully written. It is lyrical and poetic, like a modern-day Walden. But I was never much one for Thoreau. It reads like a naturalist’s journal, and if you are not hardcore into nature and wildlife, you will likely be lost. I had never heard of most of the plants and birds mentioned in the book, and no descriptions were offered. I had a hard time picturing the specifics of land masses that Weiss described, because my only frame of reference was that one family cruise.
Personally, this book bored me. But if you are into the outdoors, wildlife, and nature, Tide, Feather, Snow ought to be a peaceful winner for you.