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In an era of testosterone-charged adventure tales, Byron Ricks's Homelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage is a wonderfully introspective adventure-travel memoir. In 1996 Ricks and his wife, Maren van Nostrand, came close to making an offer on their first house, but instead decided to undertake an adventure of a different kind together--kayaking from Alaska's Glacier Bay down the coast of Western Canada to southern Puget Sound, near their Seattle home. They had no set schedule to keep and for five months lived by nautical charts and the rhythms of the tides, wind, and weather. Their plan was to paddle from the glaciers to the city, exploring a coast in flux and the ways of native peoples such as the Tlinglit, Tsimshian, and Haida--whose ancestors paddled the passage for centuries. The driving question of Homelands is this: how does the act of making a very long journey home, in this case by paddle--at an average velocity of a mere three knots--affect one's concept of home? This ocean-size question is fed by smaller tributaries: Do overcoming peril and danger make the rewards of coming home greater? How do native inhabitants encountered along the way relate to their homeland? What do you do when you're camped in a bear's back yard? And what are the issues facing a husband and wife setting out across vast expanses of open water to confront--in the most literal sense--what lies beyond?
A journalist with a background in history and anthropology, Ricks is gifted with both a keen eye and a poetic ear. The tale is written in diary form, and its voice originates in the pace of the kayak: tranquil, steady, respectful. An easygoing and astute companion, Ricks is clearly an old soul--with questions well worth asking and some lovely observations to share. --Kimberly Brown --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
In a book that is sometimes invigorating and sometimes maddeningly attenuated, Ricks recounts the five-month journey from Alaska's Glacier Bay to Washington's Puget Sound that he and his wife made by sea kayak. Ricks is obviously as well studied in the geology and the ecology of the terrain as he is blithely realistic about his ability to impose his plans upon it, bandying terms like "bathymetry" and "isostatic rebound" as freely as "ibuprofen." But while Ricks, an outdoors writer who lives in the Northwest, occasionally shows descriptive power worthy of John McPhee, the book's diary-entry structure limits his creativity, prevents inventive shifts in scene and leaves the narrative leaden in spots. Through his talks with people along the route, Ricks comes to an understanding of the term "homeland" not as something static but as a word that "speaks to the kind of relationship a people have with their place." With this interpretation, Ricks tries to find a connection to his own country even as he spends his voyage's last day paddling through a scum of oily water and past an island prison with high walls and razor wire. The book truly conveys the experiences of a long journey through remarkable terrain. Readers will share some of Ricks's elation over natural beauty and hard-won insight. But they will also be frustrated by a narrative that is as unnecessarily arduous as the journey it recounts was inevitably so. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
I've read many journey tales over the years, perhaps spurred on by my reading Marco Polo and trips to Venice and across Turkey while in the Army. Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2000 by Marc Wallace
Daily accounts of experiences while kayaking the inside passage. I found the entire book engaging and interesting. Read morePublished on July 5 2000 by pullrich
I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy not only an exciting kayaking trip down the inside passage from Alaska to Washington, but also a fine piece of writing that was colorful and... Read morePublished on June 6 2000 by Pete
Byron did an excellent job of taking the reader along on his paddle....spiritually, mentally, and physically. Read morePublished on April 3 2000 by R. White
Byron and Maren sound like wonderful people, and I admire thier spirit of adventure and commitment and respect of the land. I think I expected a lot more action in the story. Read morePublished on March 11 2000
An interesting book, but I wanted more detail about the writer's daily life while on the sea. I found it frustrating to be brought to the edge of what appeared to be an exciting... Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2000 by christine scott
Having sailed the Inside Passage a number of times, including the summer of 1996 when I encountered Byron and Maren while aboard "Cecilie" and then reading... Read morePublished on Oct. 6 1999 by James B. Quarles
There are many "how to books" on all aspects of sea kayaking. Byron's book captures the why of this mode of travel. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 1999
I enjoyed this journey both as an excape from work and an reminder that you take take the wild landscape for granted. Read morePublished on Oct. 4 1999 by M. Childs