Book Review – Way Out Here

Way Out Here is Richard Leo’s reflections on his homesteading experience.

This next book is a continuation of my Richard Leo experience per my brother’s suggestion. It’s not often that I read two books by the same author right in a row – I like to give them space so my review of one doesn’t affect the other… and that might just have happened here…

Book 15:
Way Out Here: Modern Life in Ice-Age Alaska
by Richard Leo

Genre:
Nonfiction, Adventure

Published:
March 1996

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Way Out Here is Richard Leo’s reflections on his homesteading experience.

Favorite Quote(s):

“No landscape or lifestyle is absolution from that which we carry into it.”

“Rushing to get there misses here.”

“It’s common to take for granted that which is common.”

“Living in community is a way to sustain both everyone within it and everything around it. When community is functional, it satisfies a planetary need for consensus, compassion, and foresight.”

“Craft is for the sake of crafting, not magazine spread. A full life is lived, not designed. The deepest impression is made by not trying to impress.”

– Richard Leo, Edges of the Earth

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None.

Pages:
191

My Overall Rating:
2.5 – Again, I have to say that Rick’s story is very interesting. Not many people in the currently living population can tell of their homesteading experience (though I should note that Rick has since passed away in 2013 at the age of 61). However, I struggled with this book. The chapters were too long and the content too detailed for it to be considered memoir, but the content lacked an overall plot, so it really can’t be considered a traditional non-fiction story. It was reflective, sure, but it felt largely like a man writing his thoughts for his future grandchildren, wanting to capture every detail, but assuming they already know the gist of the story.

That being said, I still found the book highly quotable which is something I really admire. When someone can take a vast concept and sum it up incredibly well in one or two moving sentences, I am immediately trying to capture those words, storing them for future use.

Book Review – Edges of the Earth

Edges of the Earth is Richard Leo’s re-telling of his homesteading experience in the Alaskan wilderness. Sick of the wind-and-grind of his career and the hustle-and-bustle of the city, Rick convinces his girlfriend, Melissa, to journey with him from New York to the Last Frontier. Settling first in Talkeetna, the two and, eventually, their baby boy, Janus, learn the Alaskan ways before venturing into the wilderness, building their homestead, chasing dreams, and putting their relationship to the ultimate test.

Two Christmases ago I drew my oldest brother’s name for our sibling gift exchange. He had two items on his wish list, one of which was this book. I can’t not give a book when a book is an option, but when I looked into this one, my heart swelled a little bit, because Alaska…

Book 14:
Edges of the Earth: A Man, A Woman, A Child in the Alaskan Wilderness
by Richard Leo

Genre:
Nonfiction, Adventure

Published:
December 1991

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Edges of the Earth is Richard Leo’s re-telling of his homesteading experience in the Alaskan wilderness. Sick of the wind-and-grind of his career and the hustle-and-bustle of the city, Rick convinces his girlfriend, Melissa, to journey with him from New York to the Last Frontier. Settling first in Talkeetna, the two and, eventually, their baby boy, Janus, learn the Alaskan ways before venturing into the wilderness, building their homestead, chasing dreams, and putting their relationship to the ultimate test.

Favorite Quote(s):

“We’re here. Just look where we are. The world is rich beyond imagining, still. Remember how we used to joke that there might not be anywhere left to go, everything known, everything already described? Remember how bleak life seemed when all hope was blown away by the intimation of inevitable tragedy – lost love or winnowed possibility or obtuse human righteousness? I remember! But look. Here is only light and land, as anywhere. But such light! And the land presupposes nothing except its continuity. I haven’t escaped sorrow, not even here, of course, not even on an unnamed creek in the boreal forest. But there’s so much life. Still. “

– Richard Leo, Edges of the Earth

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None.

Pages:
303

My Overall Rating:
4 – Rick’s story is incredibly interesting, and I love his complete honesty the whole way through. Between what he chose to share and how he shared it, he made my heart alternately swell and ache. Though I was surprised by how his relationship with his girlfriend, Melissa, played out, I was captivated by his friendship with Alexander and the storyline there, and I was impressed by his relationship with his son, Janus.

For someone who both longed for and felt comfortable with such isolation, it’s obvious he still so highly valued relationships and human interaction. The homesteading side of his story was adventurous and lust-worthy. The relational side of his story was special yet common.

I can’t recommend this book to everyone, but if you like adventure, Alaska, or even just examining relationships through everyday hardships, this is a great read. If you love Alaska, it’s a must read.