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North of Hope: A Daughter's Arctic Journey

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  220 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
After her parents are killed in a rare grizzly attack, the author is forced into a wilderness of grief. Turning to loves she learned from her father, Polson explores the perilous terrain of grief through music, the natural world, and her faith. Her travels take her from the suburbs of Seattle to the concert hall where she sings Mozart's Requiem, and ultimately into the wil ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Zondervan
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Hannah Notess
Feb 20, 2013 Hannah Notess rated it it was amazing
In "The Year of Magical Thinking," Joan Didion makes the comment that, considering that grief is something we all experience, the literature of grief is relatively small. (I forget how she phrases it exactly). I think we can add North of Hope to the timeless literature of grief, alongside works by Didion, C.S. Lewis and others.

The story a woman leaving home and traveling to one of the most remote places in the U.S., through a harsh and wild landscape, to come to the place where her dad and step
Lynette Hoy
May 23, 2014 Lynette Hoy rated it it was amazing
I met Shannon in person last winter at a book signing event for Seattle7Writers, and had the pleasure of listening to her speak about her book and read from it.

Her candor and heart is felt while she reads from the book, and you can also feel it beating when you read. A memoir that reads exceptionally like this is hard to find. Her intellect, depth and understanding of the beauty of the human language show. She is a smart person, and in writing this book as been able to move on.

The book is a jou
David Clark
Sep 01, 2012 David Clark rated it it was amazing
North of Hope tells Shannon Huffman Polson's eloquent story of her parent's horrific death and the year of her mourning. Memoirs of grief endured are necessarily personal and particular and this book is no different. However, well written memoirs of suffering, tragedy, and endurance provide tangible hand-holds for the reader's own journey. Much as the author uses Mozart's Requiem, the Jewish practice of Kaddish, and the Book of Common Prayer as a form or habit to orient the soul when grief has s ...more
Apr 01, 2013 Lesa rated it it was amazing
North of Hope is an incredible, beautifully written journey of grief and healing. The author, Shannon Huffman Polson, retells the tragic story of her father and stepmother’s death in the Arctic, as well as her own personal journey into the Arctic a year later to complete the adventure they never got to finish.

Interwoven between these two tales are stories from her childhood that help bring context to the situation and help draw the reader in with every chapter. She writes so fluidly, so melodica
Nancy Kennedy
Jul 11, 2013 Nancy Kennedy rated it liked it
Shannon Huffman Polson writes of the horrific death of her father and stepmother, who were mauled by a grizzly bear in the Alaska wilderness. She writes to come to grips with the tragedy, to try to understand what cannot be understood. This book might make a good read for someone who is going down the same road of grief and looks to nature for healing.

For me, too many negatives impeded my enjoyment of the book. The author's MFA degree is painfully evident, as her writing is weighted down with ov
Greg Conner
Apr 27, 2013 Greg Conner rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful compelling book that I could not put down until I finished. The book begins with the author's loss and her attempt to finish the Arctic trip her parent's did not. The literary prose used to tell this story and the style she uses to take you through different times while moving the story forward is breathtaking. This journey through grief will grab you and pull you into memories of personal loss. However, most importantly it will remind you of the light that does one day retur ...more
Orbs n Rings
Apr 01, 2013 Orbs n Rings rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A journey of passionate grief and healing.

When I first came across North of Hope, I had mixed feeling about reading it. One part of me was very interested in learning the story of Polson and her parents, another part of me was not sure how much I would appreciate it. I will now have to say that North of Hope is completely not what I was expecting. I have been left with lingering memories of Polson's emotional and spiritual voyage, in her commemoration of her father and step-mother. Polson exhibi
Oct 12, 2013 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
"The plane fell from the clouds toward the dirt airstrip in the Inupait village of Kaktovik, Alaska. I braced myself against the seat in front of me. Windows aged and opague blurred the borders of ice and land, sea and sky." (19)

One year after her father and stepmother are killed by a grizzly bear in the remote wilderness of the Artic, Shannon Ploson retraces their unfinished river trip, looking to honor her father and stepmom and to find healing. It's a journey that's difficult on many levels--
Jaime Boler
Apr 15, 2013 Jaime Boler rated it really liked it

Shannon Huffman Polson’s sobering yet sentimental memoir North of Hope is an extraordinary voyage of self-discovery for the author. On June 25, 2005, the writer’s father and stepmother were declared dead after a bear attacked them in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A wave of grief and anger enveloped Polson.

Each day, she “came home from work and stretched out on the couch, flattened like roadkill.” Polson eloquently illustrates the deep sorrow she felt; her misery is palpable.

The me
Apr 03, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson
Seattle, June 23, 2005, Shannon Huffman received the devastating phone call that her father and step-mother had been killed by a rogue bear in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge Area. Her memoir North of Hope: A Daughter's Arctic Journey chronicles a somber, but affirming trip to retrace and complete her parents' Hulahula River trip, a process that will be both an expression of her grief and a needed healing.

In recent years, I've read several memoirs that d
Apr 27, 2013 Alison.arians rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed North of Hope! The book chronicles Shannon's journey through grief, and part of her healing journey is a trip down the Arctic Hulahula River.

Having spent many months myself on rivers in the Arctic, I really appreciated the descriptions of landscape, the villages, the weather, the wildlife, and even the quality of the light. The writing brought back many memories of my time spent on northern rivers. Shannon's clear style will bring images to life for people who haven't been to t
May 23, 2013 Kurt rated it liked it
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
There is a level of grief that doesn't translate well into written words. Polson has clearly experienced it, as her book begins when a police officer tells her that her father and stepmother have been killed by a bear, and she starts writing about how the earth wobbles out of orbit and gravity doesn't exist and everything is like a blazing sun... It's the kind of metaphorical language that reads as trite and artificial, the kind of thing that may be a step in reconstructing your memory of an eve ...more
Apr 06, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
I've cruised and hiked in Alaska, but until reading this memoir I had only scratched the surface of this enormous and amazing state, my knowledge limited to encounters with Michener and paid guides on "shore visits." NORTH OF HOPE opened up to me Alaska's lore, and the ways people navigate its wild lands as well as the author's heart. Based on research and knowledge gained through being raised in Alaska, Polson poignantly, and with gorgeous turns of phrase, reveals much of the ferocity and ethos ...more
Jun 05, 2013 Marianne rated it really liked it
Losing my dad to brain cancer when he was 61 and I was 27 was a life altering experience. My life is divided into two eras: pre-Gliobloastoma and post-Glioblastoma. This pushes me to circle around themes of loss and grief again and again. I don’t know why I feel self-conscious and almost embarrassed about that quest. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel macabre. Or maybe it’s because it’s such a personal and sacred and profane experience, the death of a loved one. I read the “North of Hope” revie ...more
Mar 13, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
I read North of Hope: A Daughter's Arctic Journey thanks to Zondervan's review program. It's the story of Shannon Polson, whose father and stepmother were killed in a grizzly bear attack while camping in northern Alaska. A year after this, Polson travels to Alaska herself to retrace their journey and attempt to come to terms with their deaths.

The book is really beautifully written, and I feel like Shannon and I would be quite similar -- of an intellectual bent, introverts, and music lovers (she
Create With Joy
Apr 10, 2013 Create With Joy rated it really liked it
Some people experience sorrow beyond anything most of us can even begin to imagine.

On the Sunday after a painful break-up, while her heart was still raw, 33-year old Shannon Huffman of Seattle received a message that would forever change her life.

The message came from a stranger - Officer Holschen of Kakctovik, Alaska.

"Are you related to Richard and Katherine Huffman?" the voice asked.

"I'm Rich's daughter."

"I'm sorry to tell you this," said the voice, "but a bear came into their campsite last ni
Angela Risner
Mar 20, 2013 Angela Risner rated it it was ok
This is the story of Shannon Huffman Polson's trek into the same Alaskan wilderness where her father and stepmother were killed by a grizzly bear. Her quest is to connect with the last moments of their lives as well as deal with her grief. Throughout the book she explores her relationships with people, with music, and with her beloved wilderness.

I didn't love this book. I'm not saying that to be unkind. This is a very personal journey for the author, and while I have lost a parent myself, I fou
Johanna Bouchard
Mar 14, 2013 Johanna Bouchard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Shannon Polson’s life is forever changed when she receives news that her parents have been killed by a rogue bear on a camping trip. Unable to bear her grief, and seeking closure, she throws caution to the wind as she determines to re-trace her parents’ journey through the Alaskan wilderness.

Reading the vivid, near poetic, accounts of the terrain- the wind-swept grasses and the roar of the icy-cold rapids, I felt almost as though I had been there myself; while the pain, the confusion and strug
K. L.
Mar 22, 2013 K. L. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
How is it possible to write so beautifully about such a painful topic? Polson is a gifted writer whose words will bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones. I highly recommend this book for many reasons, not the least of which is the beautifully executed prose.

Polson's parents are killed by a grizzly bear during a rafting and camping trip through the Arctic wilderness. Polson eventually responds to this tragic event by retracing their steps, taking the same white water rafting trip herself
Mar 13, 2013 Moira rated it really liked it
While they were rafting down a remote river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Polson's father and stepmother were killed by a barren-ground grizzly bear. This book is Polson's attempt to make sense of the events and deal with the grief - as well as reflect on her parents' lives, and her own. It's structured around her own trip down the same river, including a visit to the fatal campsite.

She weaves several different themes together. Some parts are her own memoirs; others reflect on Dad's a
Lynnda Ell
May 04, 2013 Lynnda Ell rated it it was ok
In North of Hope, Shannon Polson shares her recovery from the devastating killing of her dad and step-mother by a bear in the Alaskan wilderness. She wanted closure from her grief, but failed to find it in moving forward in her daily life. Instead, she searched for it and found the beginning of healing in participating in a chorale production of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. Without quite understanding how, participating in the production led her to take the same summer trip down the same Artic r ...more
Jan 20, 2013 Anne rated it it was amazing
Shannon Polson truly puts her heart and soul into this memoir. She cleverly weaves the story together while jumping between her journey on the river and the backstory of her childhood, father's death, and grief experience. However, far from being distracting, this technique captivated my attention as I continually wanted to get back to the river (!) and finish the journey. Polson's honest telling of her grief process would surely be a help to others struggling with loss. I remember once in minis ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Anne rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written memoir, candid about the grief of losing one's parents, especially in such an unexpected and horrifying way, and candid about the family relationships that are exposed and experienced as a result of such an event.
There are a few things that stand out for me about this book. among them: 1) a malleability of time is conveyed, that poignantly suggests the immediacy and also the span of a lifetime that are both experienced when a family member dies. there is a plastici
Jonathan Hiskes
Oct 22, 2014 Jonathan Hiskes rated it it was amazing
Magnificent. Shannon (disclosure: she's a friend) lost her father and step-mother to a grizzly bear attack near Alaska's north coast. She retraces their river trip through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, probing the terrain of grief and the geography of this stunning remote landscape. There is enormous woundedness and yet a sense of hope as she completes the river journey they were unable to finish.

One of many stunning passages comes as she sits with her grandmother on her deathbed:

Are we
Mar 15, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-it
I was really excited about reading this book because of the adventure that Shannon has going to the Arctic! I also found the history and wildlife information fascinating. That being said, this book jumps back and forth between the present and past and the inter workings of the author's mind. I loved this book, but others might not enjoy reading because it can get a bit boring and confusing when going from one thing to the next. I know many readers enjoy fiction and this is not fiction. This is ...more
Arleen Williams
Apr 11, 2013 Arleen Williams rated it it was amazing
In prose as crystalline as the Arctic wilderness itself, Shannon Huffman Polson's North of Hope took me on a journey to a physical place I do not know and an emotional landscape I know only too well. With grace and raw honesty, she shares her story of loss and longing, of eventual and inevitable acceptance, and of the healing spirituality of nature. I felt the warmth of my dying mother's hand as I read Polson's words: It struck me that there is no greater intimacy than sitting with someone trave ...more
Apr 26, 2013 Danielle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who felt loss or have been a witness to loss
Shelves: memoir
This memoir was an inspiration to anyone who has loss someone or something special in their life. It shows the strength and the courage of the one who has to overcome the challenges of their own tragedy. To hold on to the memories but to move on from the pain of the loss; to come to the understanding life is out of our control. This story gives us the insight of one who travels back to the place where her parents died and her life lessons she learned by doing so. You feel the pain and the hurt f ...more
Apr 10, 2013 Star rated it it was amazing
First day of a writing class - we go round and say a bit about what we are working on, Shannon mentions she's working on a book length project about her father and stepmother being eaten by a grizzly in Alaska... Holy Sh*t! I think, followed by thank God I'm not her, followed by how is she going to pull this off without being all sappy and throwing a pity party for herself? Well,she does. I feel honored to have been a witness to her process and to know this kick ass woman (though she wouldn't sw ...more
Shannon Huffman Polson's North of Hope: A Daughter's Arctic Journey is a meditative memoir about beauty and bravery in the midst of brokenness, light and love in the midst of loss, mortality and music in the midst of mystery, and, penultimately, poetry and prayer in the midst of pain and pleasure. That is, meaning and significance in the midst of suffering and tragedy. It is about the calling for communion, courage, and creativity in the real presence and mystery of the Creator and creation. I h ...more
Apr 14, 2013 Db rated it it was amazing
This was a fabulous book that I found I could not put down. It was recommended by a friend who sent me the link to the author's website. I was initially a bit hesitant to read what seemed at first a chronicle of grief, having experienced loss quite recently, but Polson had posted the first chapter on her website and I was hooked! I think this is a book which will appeal to adventure/travel readers as well as those interested in how families and relationships play out in the most serious of times ...more
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Shannon Huffman Polson writes about the borders we navigate every day. Her first book, North of Hope, was released in 2013 by Zondervan/Harper Collins. In 2015 Polson released The Way the Wild Gets Inside: Field Notes from Alaska, a slim volume of essays. Her essays and articles appear in a number of literary magazines and periodicals, including honorable mention in the 2015 VanderMey Nonfiction C ...more
More about Shannon Huffman Polson...

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“I wondered what those mountains behind them might tell me, what advice they would give, if they could talk. What they would tell me about love, and about loss, and about how this wild place could heal as naturally as it could kill.” 4 likes
“In this waiting, there is witness.” 1 likes
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