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Still Points North: Surviving the World's Greatest Alaskan Childhood
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Still Points North: Surviving the World's Greatest Alaskan Childhood

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  552 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Part adventure story, part love story, part homecoming, Still Points North is a page-turning memoir that explores the extremes of belonging and exile, and the difference between how to survive and knowing how to truly live.

Growing up in the wilds of Alaska, seven-year-old Leigh Newman spent her time landing silver salmon, hiking glaciers, and flying in a single-prop plane.
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by The Dial Press
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Newman captivated me. What an honest, transparent, refreshing coming of age story!

Newman's writing style is beautiful. In one sentence she fills your heart with emotion, gives you a giggle and leaves you with a photo. Truly amazing.

"Dad is smiling, too, but a happy, terrified smile, as if the world might turn out to be a bubble and pop."

"Trying to disguise my long for their dumb young bliss with a safe, prickly coating of distain."

And this book isn't just for children affected by divorce or Al
Holly Booms Walsh
Refreshingly honest and open, this memoir was a mixed bag. On one hand, it's cleverly written with lovely wry descriptions and a knack for telling details that encapsulate a person's character in few words. It is also a captivating description of a very unorthodox childhood in the wilds of Alaska, with fishing and hunting and Great Alaskan plane mishaps. It is also a sad story of how her parents' divorce broke her emotionally, and a rather wretched description of a lost and lonely and selfish yo ...more
Not quite as powerful as Sheryl Strayed's "Wild" or as eloquent and striking as Jeanette Walls' "The Glass Castle", this memoir was enjoyable nonetheless and quite moving at times. I give it a 3.5.. Some of the narrative choices in terms of pacing and timing were jarring sometimes, not letting the emotions build up on their own, ruining the element of cumulative tension that is essential to any good story. It's always fascinating to see how crucial and determining a childhood is in anyone's life ...more
Kris Irvin
If there was a point to this book, I'm still searching for it. If you want to read a bunch of self important drivel with random stories from the past (that may or may not be true) thrown in between the nonsensical ramblings about Great Alaskan Fathers and how pointless marriage is, this book is for you.

If, however, you wanted a memoir about growing up in Alaska, or about reconciling with your father, or about anything with any meaning whatsoever, you're better off looking elsewhere.

What a wast
Anna Rabinowicz
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writer's voice is luminous, and the stories about her childhood in Alaska are compelling and unusual. I found myself wrapped up in these tales...didn't realize how much time had passed until I looked up at the clock. Highly recommended.
I liked it very much and read it in a single night. I am not ready to summarize my thoughts yet.
Leigh Newman's memoir reminded me once again of the damage parents can do to their children through lack of communication and empathy during and after divorce; this time told through the voice and seen through the eyes of the child herself. The author's description of growing up in such diverse environments (Alaska when with dad, Baltimore when with mom) and with such pole opposite expectations of behaviour from each parent(outdoor, Great Alaska Kid with dad, charming, well-educated,cultured you ...more
Julie Ekkers
Still Points North is a moving, reflective, and deeply thoughtful memoir by a woman for whom my heart broke, for whom I rooted, and for whom I was so glad, ultimately, to cheer, "Yes!" The author's parents divorced when she was young, and her childhood was then divided between her mother in Baltimore and her father (who eventually remarries and has other children) in Alaska. In Still Points North, the reader is able to watch the author reconcile her knowledge and impression of her parents and th ...more
Still Points North is bracing and beautifully written. Especially captivating is how Leigh Newman traces the evolution and decay of the various denizens of fin de siècle America as they variously slide, crumble or leap into a new century. Just as she has convinced you that she is but a victim of the narcissisms of her father, who emerges in the first part of the book as sort of a revanchist hippie, and her mother, who begins as a feminist free-thinker that can't quite embrace womanhood, she lets ...more
This book is the memoir and first book of a woman my age who grew up traveling worldwide and eventually settling in NYC. It takes you vividly through every step of the way, recreating the characters, the emotions, the places, tastes and smells. Leigh is a former travel writer and child of divorce, who grew up between tom boy Alaska where she hunts and fishes, and Baltimore, where she learns about antiques and literature (among other things). It is a fascinating journey, peppered with hilarious l ...more
Melissa Lewis Reilly
This is a tough one to rate and I'm not sure why. Her story is surely unique and I'm always drawn to insights into very different American experiences (most Americans get little exposure to the myriad cultures and ways of life in our own country). I think I wanted to be able to get into her psyche just a little more than I did. There is such a spectrum of deep emotional damage among the characters, but I wasn't quite able to feel them - to connect with the drivers behind the damage. It was like ...more
I loved this book! Could not put it down. It really resonated with me as a story of someone searching for identity - the difficulty of weaving together the disparate parts of yourself to find out who you really are, and the joy of finally finding your home. The author is from a divorced family but you do not need to be a child of divorce to strongly relate to this book. I also loved the vivid and amazing imagery of Alaska. I wanted to go to Alaska before I read this book but her writing brings i ...more
Georgia Fojo
I enjoyed this book. The author's complex identity hit close to home. The whole story unravels the emotional journey Newman endures traversing two polar opposite lifestyles and parents. Her past distinctively affects the decisions and opinions she forms in life from her varied education, her job as a travel writer, her inability to stay put and her struggles in love and marriage. Newman is acutely aware of this and thoroughly examines how her past relationships and experiences shaped her as an i ...more
Jes Jones
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
An interesting, involving memoir of a chaotic childhood full of dysfunctional adults, disintegrating relationships, strange relatives and the odd bear. The POV is insanely tight, almost claustrophobic. The writing is pure but the feelings are muddy, full of quicksand. The ending came too soon, the story wrapped up in an endearing but still jarring epilogue. My review copy courtesy of ALA Midwinter.
This child-of-divorce memoir reminded me of other memoirs I've read, specifically, Blood, Bones, and Butter, My Berlin Kitchen, and Glass Castle. However, Newman's story is unlike any other; it is uniquely unusual, almost unbelievably so.

I definitely liked the second half of the book more than the first half, which is why I landed on 4 stars instead of 3.
My introduction to Still Points North was at an event as part of the Juniper Institute's evening reading series. Leigh Newman read from the introduction and I was immediately hooked by her sense of humor and how vividly she describes a landscape unknown to most of "the lower 48". I immediately purchased the book after the reading, and found the entire memoir rife with her unique humor and turn of phrase. Newman is certainly a gifted storyteller, and the rating has more to do with my own personal ...more
Tanya picked this book because she's friends with Leigh via their sons' school. The memoir was heart-wrenching in some parts to the point that it was too agonizing to read. I was impressed by how Leigh exposed her vulnerabilities and shared her often painful childhood memories. She is clearly a gifted writer because her narrative effortlessly carries you along major episodes of her life, even those you don't really want to necessarily read about. Emotions displayed here are raw - both in vivid d ...more
A quick read. I really enjoyed the author's voice. She was really relatable and very funny. The ending was cute. Overall, an uplifting, feel-good book.
Really, I wanted to rate this 3.5, but alas, there are no decimals in this rating system so I gave the benefit of the doubt to the book.

Leigh Newman reflects on her upbringing and how living between her Great Alaskan Father and her Manic New England Mother formed who Leigh is today: rugged and self sufficient with a heavy dose of self doubt.

Reflections can be hard to endure, both for the writer and reader, at times. Leigh describes some hard times--physical and emotional abuse from her parents,
Leigh Newman is a wonderful writer, who treats her life as an emotional travelogue. Along with her expeditions to Alaska to Baltimore to St. Petersburg to Paris and all over the world, she takes you on a journey through the deep jungles of her soul. Though her experiences are fascinating (and enviable), her peripateticism makes it hard for her to trust others and settle down, threatening her marriage and future. This book is an adventure -- both external and internal, and I finished it feeling v ...more
Oct 11, 2013 Vilo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
A thoughtful, haunting memoir of a childhood spent traveling between a father in Alaska and a mother in Baltimore and how the grown-up child manages to work through the confusions and hard lessons to create a life for herself. Newman is detailed and explicit but loving and fair about her parents' struggles and her own. It made me think of the research in WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS: THE COST OF NEGLECTING OUR CHILDREN by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Leigh Newman's parents did not mean to neglect their daughter ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leigh Newman’s debut memoir should be required reading for anyone who wants insight into divorce. Newman captures the special exile of a child who needs to stay strong, keep everything together, “hop to,” in order to survive the fallout of her parents’ decisions. The use of tense and Newman's unique voice that captures kid-thinking pulls the reader in - revealing spectacular moments of physical and emotional survival. When Newman realizes she is the only one her mother can lean on, she gets odd ...more
I enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick read with an honest and enlightening perspective. It was a fresh look at coming of age and how divorce has lasting effects communication and relationships with strangers and those closest to us, family. How to learn about oneself and to not only grow into your own person, but to accept that person. It was witty and yet down to earth with a style of writing that was more of a conversation.

I did feel as though a lot of the issues seemed quite a bit over
I've gotten kind of tired of reading memoirs as of late, but this one sounded kind of interesting. After her parents' divorce the author splits her time between living in Alaska with her father and his new family and in Baltimore with her unstable mother. I wondered what it was like growing up in Alaska and since I live in Baltimore I was interested to see what the author had to say about living here as well. I obviously read enough of the back copy of the book to know it took place in those two ...more
Stella Fouts
Take a closer look at the cover of this book. Leigh Newman takes us on a journey through Alaska AND her childhood, and the cover says it all. She's a girl who wades into a stream up to her chest, who can gut fish - not just one but hundreds at a time, paddle to safety through treacherous, rain-swollen waters, help her dad fly his two-seater plane across Alaskan skies, navigate the halls - and people - of Baltimore's Roland Park Country School, and hop, skip and jump from one country to another t ...more
The best part of the book was the end - and I don't mean that it was good because I had finished, I mean the writing and story finally got interesting in the last 15 page or so.
The book seemed out of order - like it was just a collection of ramblings.
This was a 'Great Alaskan Flop' (author relates everything to the Great Alaskan Dad, or Great Alaskan Daughter...) for me. The only reason I give it 2 stars is because the ending was actually starting to make cohesive sense.
I was pretty disappointed with this book. It's a memoir about the author's childhood growing up in Alaska, so I thought it would be really interesting. But, it was more about how much her parent's divorce screwed her up both as a child and into adulthood. Her parents split up when she was 8 and she and her mother moved from Alaska to Baltimore, Maryland, but she spent each summer in Alaska with her Dad. Neither of her parents really talked to her about the divorce and she always felt like her lo ...more
Joan Colby
Newman’s candor moves this memoir beyond the ordinary. Her experience as a child of divorce—shuttled between he “Great Alaskan Father”, a surgeon, pilot and avid outdoorsman and her city, art and museum loving mother who assuages her depressions with spending sprees that, among other things, leave Newman unable to buy school shoes—results in a woman incapable of making commitments or being able to assess her own emotional baggage. As a travel writer, Newman is footloose, a life that suits her on ...more
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Leigh Newman’s memoir Still Points North is forthcoming from Dial Press in spring 2013. She is the Deputy Editor of where she writes about books, life, happiness, survival, and—on rare, lucky days—food. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in One Story, Tin House, The New York Times Modern Love and City sections, Fiction, New York Tyrant, O The Oprah Magazine,, Condé Nast ...more
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