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Heimo Korth was one of the many young men who set out for Alaska in the 1960s and '70s to recreate the life of early fur traders in the American West, a movement first observed in John McPhee's classic Coming into the Country. Journalist Campbell has written a worthy sequel to McPhee's book that is a powerful tale in its own right, focusing solely on Korth, who now "lives more remotely than any other person in Alaska" as one of only seven hunter-trappers with a permit to live in the 19.5-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Korth lives with his wife and two daughters 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, the only settlers for more than 500 miles (250 miles from the nearest road and another 300 miles to the nearest hospital in Fairbanks). Campbell artfully details a number of visits he makes to the Korth family in 2002, as he accompanies Korth on hunting and trapping expeditions that make himâ"and the readerâ"feel "transported straight back into the 19th century." He also sympathetically recounts Korth's flight from his abusive Wisconsin father and his reinvention of himself as an Alaskan "legend," a "gun-toting, park-hating antiâ"animal rights trapper with a soft side"â"but one who is well respected by managers of the ANWR. What makes this more than just a profile of a fascinating personality is Campbell's deft weaving of Alaskan history into Korth's tale, showing how the recent influx of developers and ecotourists is making the trapping life "more of an anachronism with each passing year."
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By the mid-1970s, countercultural attitudes had propelled so many wilderness seekers to Alaska that writer John McPhee gave an account of them in Coming into the Country (1976). Over several visits in 2002, Campbell absorbed the life story of one such emigrant from the lower 48, Heimo Korth, who happens to be his cousin. Korth traps fur-bearing animals to generate what little cash he makes, and hunts caribou, moose, and fowl for his food. Campbell's observation of the shooting and skinning this necessitates is objective, leaving nothing to imagination. Retrospectively, Campbell relates why Korth moved to Alaska (partly due to antagonism with his father), followed by incidents in his marriage to a native woman and their raising of three daughters (one of whom died in an awful canoeing accident) along a remote tributary of the Yukon River. Because the author perceptively describes how teenagers Rhonda and Krin feel about growing up in such isolation, the circle of interest for Campbell's well-organized work will encompass fans of coming-of-age stories in addition to those intrigued by unconventional lifestyles. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
I second the positive comments to what has been said earlier in these reviews. This man and his family were included in a National Geographic documentary titled "Braving... Read morePublished on July 19 2004 by Jim M
Comparisons will be drawn between this book and Krakauer's excellent Into the Wild based on the common themes of living off the land and the unforgivingness of the Alaskan... Read morePublished on June 16 2004 by kalabiblion