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Road Song: A Memoir

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  335 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Natalie Kusz was attacked by an Alaskan sled dog that tore away half of her face. She wasn't expected to live, but she survived, though she lost an eye and faced grueling years of surgery, recovery, and reconstruction. Natalie tells her story in such a way that no reader can fail to find it heartrending and unforgettable.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 1st 1991 by Harper Perennial (first published October 24th 1990)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
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Richard Gilbert
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jeanette
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.
Michele
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Janie
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Susan
Jul 20, 2014 added it
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 ...more
Angela
Nov 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Probably 3 1/2 stars. Interesting family, but sometimes the narrative drags.
Vainvt
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A friend who taught literature gifted me with a list of her favorite biographies and autobiographies. Road Song was one she highlighted because it showed how the human spirit can overcome dire circumstances. Since I have always been drawn to this subject, I chose it.
This autobiography does not disappoint in dire circumstances. The author, Natalie Kusz, had great inner strength to survive and eventually thrive. But what made this book special to me was her honesty about adopting self-harm
...more
Martha
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've never forgotten this book, even though I could not remember the title. This is the story of a family moving to Alaska in search of some sort of dream. The author was injured very badly by a sled dog and all her summers were spent having one surgery after another. When she finally came to terms with her injuries and the disfigurement caused by the dog bite, she was finally able to move on emotionally with her life.
Angela
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In this memoir, Natalie Kusz demonstrates the rare talent of holding together a story with many threads and portraying the dull, burning ache of loss and rebuilding. As other Goodreads reviewers have noted, there are times when the narrative tension lessens, but the reward for following these threads is a story built with depth in masterful layers. This rich and insightful story shows what it means to endure and evolve. Just wow.
SouthWestZippy
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.
Jean
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was recommended in a book about writing memoir. It was written 30 years ago and is about growing up in a tight family with dreams and ambition. When the author was 6 years old, she was attacked by a sled dog in Alaska. She describes the aftermath of that event as well as how her family endured other hardships for years to come.
Becca Brado
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this in less than 24 hours. It was a really interesting story and I especially enjoyed learning all about the author's family. It turns out my husband's grandparents who live near Delta Junction knew the author's father. I'd recommend this one, especially if you're into Alaskana!
Todd Putney
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great memoir about a family moving to Alaska in the 1960s. Good antidote to the mostly fake reality tv shows about Alaska.
Lola
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
The story of the author's family's move to Alaska & their life there.
It's a mediocre book that I didn't find very interesting.
Ellen Airgood
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
So many wise thoughts. The front and back covers of my copy are filled with page numbers and a brief description of reflections I wanted to find easily again.
Dnicebear
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Kallie
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I just read this for the second time, and appreciate more than before Kusz's detailed account of family love and endurance. Not only is the writing brilliant (clarity and immediacy are two adjectives that come to mind) but it is so full of warmth though sad and heartbreaking at times. What a family! How brave, hardworking, intelligent, loyal, expressive. Kusz tells of her and their experiences as poor homesteaders in Alaska, living in difficult circumstances but enjoying their time together. She ...more
Theresa
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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,
...more
Sull
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
...more
Jean
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Kitty
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
Nola
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 ...more
Starla King
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Ann Christensen
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Ellie
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jennifer
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
TJWphd
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Kathleen
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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. ...more
Sue
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 ...more
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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)