Saturday, April 13, 2013

North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson

Shannon's life fell apart in 2005. First, she and her long time boyfriend, the man with whom she was smitten, broke up. A few days later, she received the phone call. Rafting the Hulahula River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he dad and step-mom were attacked and killed by a grizzly. (Before and since their death, there has been no known humans killed by bears in the Refuge.)
A year later, Shannon was on that same river, taking the same trip, with her adopted brother and woman who was his work colleague.

The trip would be a sacred journey, a pilgrimage. She would come to realize that the reason for the trip was to face the beast of grief within herself. She was also waiting to hear from God, not sure of what he would say or how He would say it.

She interweaves her family story and her experience with singing into her account of the rafting trip. Her father had been drafted for the Vietnam war but his law degree allowed him to be posted to Alaska. After his military commitment was completed, he stayed in Alaska, practicing law in Anchorage. Shannon grew up in Alaska but ended up working in Seattle after her college experience.

As Shannon flies to the drop off point, she thinks, “It would be easier not to believe in God. It would be easier not to have to make sense of this. Maybe this place was too far north for prayer, too far north for hope.” (61)

There are two aspects of this book that will appeal to readers. First is Shannon's journey through grief. She writes with candor as she comes to grips with the untimely and tragic death of her father and step-mother.
The second aspect is the adventure of Alaska. Readers will learn about migrating birds and animals like the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Shannon also includes in her narrative other journeys she has made into the Alaska wilderness, such as hiking Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains.

This is a moving narrative of grief, searching for meaning in the midst of tragedy, and finding the comforting presence of God.

View the book trailer here.

Shannon Huffman Polson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated with a BA from Duke University in English Literature, an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth, and an MFA from Seattle Pacific University. She served eight years as an attack helicopter pilot in the Army and worked five years in corporate marketing and management roles before turning to writing full time. She is an avid outdoors person, enjoying backpacking, skiing, climbing, diving, etc. In 2009, she received the Trailblazer Woman of Valor award from Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell. Find out more at

Zondervan, 256 pages. Publisher's product page.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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