Skip to main content

Sweet Home Alaska

Review

Sweet Home Alaska

Trip --- short for Terpsichore --- lives in Little Bear Lake, Wisconsin. Her father lost his job at the mill when the lumber ran out, and her mother lost her piano students when folks in the town no longer had money for extras. The year is 1934 and her family, and many more like them, are struggling to make ends meet.

President Roosevelt has offered families the opportunity to homestead in Palmer, Alaska, as part of the Palmer Colony project. Trip’s father wants to go, but her mother doesn’t want to end up “beyond civilization.” Trip thinks living in Alaska would be similar to the lifestyle Laura Ingalls Wilder, her favorite author, writes about. Part of her wants to move to Alaska, but to do so, she has to leave her old life behind, including her best friend, Eileen.

In the Alaskan wilderness, Trip and her family have to deal with adverse living conditions caused by poor planning for the settlement project, an excess of mosquitoes, measles and scarlet fever outbreaks, and a harsh winter, just to name a few problems. Will Trip and her family survive in the wilderness, or will they be one of the many families who call it quits? More precisely, will Trip and her family be able to convince her mother to stay?

Carole Estby Dagg tells an interesting story of an historical public works project I had never heard about. I enjoyed reading historical fiction that brings to life the people and events of this era.

Author Carole Estby Dagg tells an interesting story of an historical public works project I had never heard about. I enjoyed reading historical fiction that brings to life the people and events of this era. However, I had a hard time getting into the story. The narrative felt rather disjointed. The author seemed to flit from topic to topic, without filling in the blanks for one before going off on another. She brought up many interesting points, and covered a lot of ground. Maybe that’s the problem --- she tried to cover too much. I feel like I have more questions than answers about what Trip did in Alaska.

For instance, Trip doesn’t want to leave her best friend, Eileen, behind. They decide they will keep in touch and tell each other everything about their lives. However, Trip writes only one letter to Eileen (as part of a class assignment) and she doesn’t receive a single letter back from her. If they were such good friends, and they miss each other so much, why wasn’t that more of an issue? Similarly, at one point, Trip’s family moves from the campground to their plot of ground. Trip can’t find her cat and is worried Tigger will never be able to find them. The cat goes missing for several days, during which time Trip half-heartedly searches for her. When Tigger finally shows up, all is well. Trip didn’t spend much time worrying about her cat. Why was there such a lack of emotion on Trip’s part when the cat wasn’t there?

Unfortunately, there are many more examples like this. However, the story is still an  interesting one and is still worth reading. It’s obvious from the Author’s Notes and Resources that she did her homework. I learned a lot about the pioneering days of Alaska. And, I learned there really is something called Jellied Moose Nose, as the author included a couple of recipes at the end of the book.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on February 29, 2016

Sweet Home Alaska
by Carole Estby Dagg