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Road Song: A Memoir
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Road Song: A Memoir

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  295 Ratings  ·  60 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 1st 1991 by Thorndike Press (first published October 24th 1990)
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Richard Gilbert
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Natalie Kusz has written a fine, strong, unusual memoir about her loving, eccentric family, their life in Alaska, and the accident that maimed her face. One of the things that sets Road Song apart is that the latter, a truly horrific event early in the story, is just one of the book's compelling threads, an important one but not its focus.

The title tells you that, in large part, this is a book about a joyous family. What Kusz focuses on is always different and unexpected—there are so many surpr
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.
I picked this up as part of my Alaska binge but found that it's not really about Alaska. I'm glad I read it, and wouldn't have without the Alaska connection suggested via Amazon. This family (mom, dad, and four children) moved to Alaska from California in the late 60s, and this is the oldest child's story. It's really Natalie's memoir, written as a young adult, as she recounts their move to Alaska when she was six. Natalie was attacked by a sled dog in their early days in Alaska and spent years ...more
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably 3 1/2 stars. Interesting family, but sometimes the narrative drags.
I had a hard time getting into this book. The story drags at times and leaves you with no closer on what happens next other times. The parents were loving and forgiving but overall clueless on how to truly care for others. I do like that fact that it is raw and real but does lack true depth on just what all happen, parts of the story are missing.
Todd Putney
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great memoir about a family moving to Alaska in the 1960s. Good antidote to the mostly fake reality tv shows about Alaska.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love how this book is strongly about "us," even though Natalie's voice and her experiences dominate.

One example comes 3/4 way through the book, after Natalie describes fire fighting in Alaska. Suddenly the fire metaphor fits the situation of Mom's death.

"So it was again now a time of new ashes, a smoldering and watchful time like those early years after my accident. My mother's death had come as a searing great fire, and as a family we had fought it as such, pulling on boots and wide hats and
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well worth reading. Book covers just about any subject one can think of. I would have to believe that most of the author's memory from her early days came from her mother's writings as well as some perspective of other family members and friends of the family. It is basically a story of struggle to survive, not only from the accident, but the harshness of living in Alaska. I was all over the place in this book and I felt a little guilty for at times being upset with the author and her choices . ...more
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Starla King
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Ann Christensen
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greatreads
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
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Molly Bosscher
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-favs
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
Joyce McCombs
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alaska
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.
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mary Chambers
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: memoir lovers and adventurers
Road Song was equally discouraging at times and very uplifting, kind of like real life. The lives this Polish family lived were hard, but they stuck together and persevered. I enjoyed following their journeys to many of the places I have lived. I was encouraged by their faith in God. I picked this book up at the library off the shelf.
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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.
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this thoughtful, moving memoir about a family living hard lives in Alaska during the 1970s-early 80s. Kusz is a skilled storyteller, giving us front row seats to her family's lives, deftly weaving in the details from inside jokes about "the Rodneys" to using blooming fireweed to tell when winter is approaching.
Holly Weiss
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, m-research
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.
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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...