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Road Song: A Memoir
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Road Song: A Memoir

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  49 reviews
In 1969, when she was six years old, Natalie Kusz, with her parents and three siblings, left Los Angeles and headed north to Alaska on a classic quest for freedom, wide open spaces, a house on the land, and a more wholesome way of living. They were modern day pioneers who took a risk- a risk that swiftly turned grim when seven-year-old Natalie was attacked by dogs that tor ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 389 pages
Published December 31st 1991 by Thorndike Press (first published October 24th 1990)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I'd say this lady had some rather extraordinary parents, although her mother was a bit too self-sacrificing. And I'd also say that Natalie Kusz is one hell of a good writer.
If you ever get the crazy notion that you're going to head to Alaska, buy some land, build your own house, and live the sweet life, first give yourself a reality dose by reading this book.
Beautifully written memoir about a family who endured a lot of extraordinary life events including a very adventurous decision to leave suburbia and live off the land in Alaska. As a child and newly arrived Alaskan, the memoirist suffered a most horrific dog attack that left her clinging to life as a young child and struggling with deformity and ongoing medical issues after that. Never once did I feel that the author was being cathartic or seeking pity. This story hit my emotions several times b ...more
I loved this memoir, and agree with Lynne Sharon Schwartz when she wrote: "Her story of an arduous childhood in a family rare in its bravery and integrity deserves a prominent place in the literature of memory." As a memoir writer I am fascinated by how Natalie Kusz structured her story, with memories and flashbacks woven all through the narrative so that by the end the complete story had been told without the reader realizing it. It's one of those books where I read the last page very, very slo ...more
Probably 3 1/2 stars. Interesting family, but sometimes the narrative drags.
Starla j.
Oct 16, 2014 Starla j. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers & those wanting honest perspective on trauma and resilience.
Recommended to Starla by: Beth
I read this book for two reasons: 1) it was recommended as a great example of memoir writing, and 2) I admit, I was fascinated by Natalie's horrific "accident with dogs" and wanted to know how it happened, how she dealt with it.

For the most part, I got exactly what I came for with this book: entertainment, education, emotion. My reason for 4 instead of 5 stars is probably unfair, but it's because about 3/4 of the way through the book, the issue of Natalie's recovery from her devastating injurie
This book came out in 1990, and I was working at a Barnes & Noble at the time, when the author came to our store for a book signing. I've meant to read this book ever since but would forget about it; I recently came across it at a used book store and finally followed through.

I found it a fascinating read because it portrayed such a different way of life-- a family who wanted to get away from society and be in the wilderness, so they moved to Alaska and essentially lived like pioneers-- poor,
This was a thought-provoking book, though not entirely in a positive way. Very readable, yet an uneasy read down below the adventurous surface. Natalie's childhood was the tougher, darker side of the American pioneer fairy-tale, where the parents bravely strike out into the unknown wilderness to make a life for themselves and their children pay the price.

It was the distance from medical care that was Natalie's price when the feral sled dogs mauled her, scarring her face enough to require the man
An awesome memoir, from early childhood to young adulthood, from a woman who was unimaginably wounded as a child. It is never self-pitying, is full of flatly truthful observations, and a compelling read. It is frightening in that it shows how these intelligent, hard working, idealist, somewhat eccentric parents and their children faced stress and deprivations and got broken in many ways. It is uplifting in that bravery and love shine through. But, oh, couldn't things have been easier... It is al ...more
I don't think this is about Natalie as much as it is about her family. Sure, the accident is a tragic and hugely significant event, but what happens before (as a family) and how the family is shaped afterwards seems to be as compelling of a story as the accident itself -- one of resolve, commitment and in spite of everything, joy. This is a book I will carry with me for a long time.
This is a quiet book that never became well-known, and I feel lucky to have run across it. It was in the library at Circle Hot Springs, and we were camping on their lawn during a very rainy late August. The owners were exceedingly gracious with the facilities and I could sit inside for hours reading or visiting with locals. I found this book there shortly after we had passed through the author's home town on our way to Circle, and the story was riveting. I enjoy books when the characters are sym ...more
Author's growing-up story as her family moves to Alaska, endures poverty and her trauma (part of her face is ripped off by a dog), and moves on. I had expected more story and less introspection.
Heidi Z
A very well written book; a survival story. Every person that has lived in Alaska would enjoy it. I read it so many times I lost track. The author is an inspiration.
I'm not usually a fan of memoirs, but this one kept my eyes glued to the pages till I finished. I read it in 36 hours and it brought tears to my eyes four times.
Jun 23, 2011 Thomas rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stockholm Syndrome, seeking same
Her delusional, neglectful parents dragged her to the Alaskan wilderness so that they could live some sort of "off-the-grid" life and at one point left her to get her face eaten off by wolves as a young child. (That's the least uninteresting part and the only reason that Kusz was paid to write a book in the first place). Then you get to watch her parents keep neglecting her for the rest of her childhood. I think she gets a glass eye at some point. Eventually she grows up to write a memoir in whi ...more
Ann Christensen
This was a really great story about a family and how they stuck it out through rough times financially and physically in Alaska. The family sell everything they have and leave their family, who think they are crazy, to live off the land. This is a story about hard work and how generations before effect generations to come. At the very end of the story Natalie shares how her father came to the United States from Poland. His story and his father's story could be another book. Natalie is an amazing ...more
I first heard about this book in an expository writing class I was taking. I have to say, what drew me in was the fact that in this true story, the writer, when she was a child, had her eye ripped out by an underfed sled dog in Alaska. I could not fathom how this could happen. What I didn't expect was for this to be a moving tale of the evolution of one family over generations through tales of struggle and triumph. Kusz's tale is a difficult one, but you never once feel like you are being forced ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Ellie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Your mom.
Shelves: nonfiction
This book made me cry approximately seven times. (note: I do cry at nearly everything, but still.) I read it while traveling around last winter (on the plane to MA, on the bus to NYC, etc), so it was pretty sweet to wipe my wet cheeks in front of strangers.

Ah--the book. This is a well-constructed memoir that takes us through a young girl's childhood move from the lower 48 up to Alaska with her family. In Alaska, she endures a terrible accident and its effects on her life are everlasting.

It's har
An incredibly compelling memoir of life in the Alaskan wilderness and overcoming obstacles
I read this a very long time ago and still think about it from time to time. I did look at some of the other reviews here and notice people either really like the book or really don't like it. Interesting...,
As I mentioned, I find myself thinking about this woman's story and that to me is a good story, fiction or not. If I continue to be reminded of the story or a character or ?? that is the litmus test. I enjoyed it very much and although Ms. Kusz and her family are unusual and probably not peo
Molly Bosscher
This is one of the better memoirs I've read in the last few years. With the advent of a glut of memoirs, many of them shabbily constructed, Road Song is breath of fresh air. Although not perfect; there are places where I found myself frustrated with the organization, it was open, it was honest, and it was hopeful. There's a lot of religious language in it, yet it's not overdone. I found myself wanting to be friends with the author, to have coffee with her family, and to ask her even more questio ...more
Deborah Britton
reminded me of autobiography of a face
I struggled to finish this one. I could not identify with anyone in this story. It was just a little "far out" for me. A family with four kids leaves their home and security in Los Angeles and takes off in a trailer for Alaska and ends up living in poverty for the rest of their lives. The one daughter, Natalie (the author), got half her face chewed off by a sled dog when she was seven and a lot of the book is about her surgeries and recovery, then her rebellion, education, single parenthood. I w ...more
Joyce McCombs
Road Song is one of the most incredible books I've ever read. The details of the Kusz family life in Alaska and in particular of their daughter Natalie are precisely drawn and will take you on an emotional roller coaster (sorry for the trite phrase, but it's true!). The strength of the family bonds, through triumph and tragedy, are nothing less than remarkable. I am hesistant to mention any specifics, because the entire book is filled with interconnected events that are crucial to the story. Rea ...more
This is a book about a family that wants an adventure and new way of life! They travel in a car to Alaska in search of a simplier life. The one daughter got attacked by sled dogs and that started the road to poverty, sadness and mostly disfunctional family. Although the attack is a central happening in the book it didn't dwell on it, but rather told how they coped with the hardships of 'pioneer' life and adversity.
This book wasn't what I expected. I was hoping for an Alaskan-adventure type book, but 95% of this book could have happened anywhere. It is the story of a girl who deals with major injuries and medical problems. She was courageous through many struggles, but overall the book was way too depressing for me. The book is well written but I kept hoping for something uplifting to off-set the gloom and never got it.
A gentle reflection on rural life in Alaska and the frailty of the human body. Kusz writes convincingly about the spirited optimism of her family in times of poverty, social isolation, and her own slow recovery from the accident that shaped the course of her life. There is no veil of self-pity in any of this memoir which is refreshing and speaks to the straightforwardness of Kusz' character. 4.5 stars.
Amid the flurry of memoirs that try to shock, this honestly written, touching book stands out. There is no need to embellish the hellish events of her childhood. She lives with them every day. The miracle here is that the tone of this beautifully written book is far from self-pitying. I seldom finish a book with a greater mixture of sorrow and joy.
Holly Weiss
This very touching memoir recounts the trials of a family who takes off to live in the wilds of Alaska. The disfigurement of a daughter becomes the overriding narrative. Bond of family love despite great tribulation is the premise. I had to read this slowly, but was very effected emotionally by it. Hats off to a memoir which is memorable.
A memoir by a woman whose face is bitten in half by hungry sled dogs when she's seven years old. As an Alaskan, I can say that the depiction of AK culture is right on; this book made me homesick for the state. I enjoyed the first half of this memoir more than the second half, but that's just because I like reading about poverty and surgery.
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Natalie Kusz (born 1962) is an American memoirist.

She graduated from University of Alaska Fairbanks with a B.A. and an M.F.A. She taught at Bethel College, and Harvard University. She teaches at Eastern Washington University. Her work appeared in O, Harper's, Threepenny Review, McCall's, Real Simple, and The New York Times.

(from Wikipedia)
More about Natalie Kusz...
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