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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Alaska - Sue Saliba 3.5 starsSome books shout from the page, strident and bold, demanding to be heard. Other books whisper in your ear. Almost as if to say: ‘Come closer. I have something to tell you.’ So you lean in, sink into the words, and let yourself be submerged. Alaska is one of the latter. It is a quiet, seemingly simple story, with great emotional depth beneath the plot. The prose is spare, yet somehow heavy – every sentence feels deliberate and significant, each word carefully chosen, rich with meaning. There is something almost dream-like about the experience of reading this book – the lyrical flow, the delicate handling of the dialogue, the beauty of the language. While the lack of capitalisation, the short paragraphs and the shifts from past to present initially take some getting used to, they feel fitting for the unfolding of Mia’s story. Travelling from Australia to Alaska in the wake of her mother’s hospitalisation, Mia discovers love and beauty – in people and her surroundings – and must ultimately decide whether to follow her heart, whatever direction it may lead her in. The subjects of alcoholism, depression, romantic and familial love – and the way Mia perceives these – are explored honestly without being heavy handed or melodramatic. In particular, the passages that deal with mental illness feel achingly real and insightful. While yet a young woman beginning to figure out her way into the future and experiencing all the accompanying uncertainty, it is here that Mia shows her depth of understanding and empathy. I loved how the aspect of distance was explored in Mia’s relationships, both geographically and emotionally, and what it means to be close to someone. Or to discover that someone may not be exactly who or what we believe (or want) them to be. The bonds between Mia and her mother and sister, from childhood to the present, were a little bit heartbreaking in their realism. Alaska is a gentle story of a girl’s self-discovery through connection with her surroundings and finding something to believe in. It's a moving portrayal of courage and what it means to love. Absolutely beautiful. (I also have to mention the cover. It is stunning - I keep picking it up and tilting it in the light. Perfect for the story within.)