Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review -- South to Alaska

South to Alaska: A True Story of Courage and Survival from the Heartland of America to the Heart of a Dream
South to Alaska: A True Story of Courage and Survival from the Heartland of America to the Heart of a Dream by Nancy Owens Barnes

My enjoyment rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Copy received from the author -- my thoughts on this book are my own; I was not compensated in anyway for my review.



What were your dreams growing up?

To be a fireman? Policeman? Princess?

Those are common responses if you were to query a grade school aged child.

I wanted to be a football coach. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

When Melvin Owens spotted a picture of an Alaskan cabin in a 4th grade text book, he knew from that day on, his dream was to live there. After a 50 year journey, his dreams came true.

Nancy Owens Barnes has created a masterfully blended account of her father’s childhood in Oklahoma, her parents’ marriage, her own upbringing, and ultimately his quest to build a boat in land-locked Arkansas, which would take him to his beloved destination.

It took three years of laboring in his “spare time” for Melvin to build the Red Dog in his Arkansas back yard. According to the author,


“The Red Dog surprised many who drove over the rise of the hill by our house to find a large ocean-going vessel sitting high and dry…they couldn’t see that the Red Dog would be my father’s song, and the final unfolding of a dream that had slumbered against his thoughts for many years.”

From that point on, it would take another two years to navigate (primarily alone) the Red Dog thru con-artists, waterways, canals, Gulfs, foreign ports, customs, and finally to its destination – Ketchikan, Alaska.

South to Alaska is part Thor Heyerdahl, Bill Bryson, and Sebastian Junger (and even the prophet Noah!) in scope. With narrative that is equally entertaining as you read Melvin’s folksy mannerisms; agonizing as you experience the many treacherous storms; and educational as you immerse yourself in the geography and botany of the lush Latin American region – it is rewarding on multiple levels.

In the end, I fell in love with Nancy’s parents – people I seemed to recognize immediately from my own background. Two great people, working incredibly hard, and living their lives to the fullest.

I don’t think Melvin ever saw an angel, but South to Alaska is ultimately about a man who was inspired to fulfill a God-given calling and dream.

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