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Little House in the Big Arctic
on July 16, 2004
James Campbell reports the life of Heimo Korth and the family he has raised, the last family of trappers to remain in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Although this book has one foot in the "wilderness adventure can you believe anyone can survive this" genre (Heimo regularly traps in -50 weather and even jogs in -20 weather), it is also a kind of domestic family saga, almost a "Little House on the Prairie" but the prairie is the Arctic.
Heimo, his wife Edna, and daughters Rhonda and Krin, face near tragedies and real tragedies lost in blizzards, or facing a broken-down snow machine miles from home, or jumping from ice flow to ice flow in desparate hope of making it back to shore, or falling through overflow ice on the river. Remarkably though, the main thing I'll remember about this book is the sense it conveys of Heimo's redemption (lost and alcoholic, he came to Alaska to trap in the 70s, but dried up and built a family there), and of the love and affection of a family who have no one but each other for months on end. This is a real testament to Campbell's skill as a journalist and author.
The adventure and drama of the Arctic keep the reader turning pages like a good mystery but the after-effect is one of love and integrity.