I decided to download a sample of Still Points North on my Kindle app on my iPad to check it out with no commitment. Maybe two pages in, I was back on Amazon downloading the whole book. I was hooked right away.
For me Still Points North is a story about parenting from page one on. Under every layer of travel, adventure, excitement, despair, sadness, loneliness, confidence and fears, I saw wisdom gained once you have children of your own. Wisdom, you may not have known you had or thought of as wisdom or clarity, for that matter. Stories of childhood are once again important to you and now explain things, when before you thought them all your past and not really important to your adult life. It’s a mental clearness that one has when they’ve lived life and then have kids and have to see the world and the past in a new way. I’ve felt these things myself since having my three children and now live a life so different then before I knew their love. So when I got to the end of Still Points North and read about her children and that she is now a parent when she is writing this, how she chose the memories she included made perfect sense.
Readers feel the emotions of this child of divorce, torn between worlds and apart, leaving her feeling like nowhere and everywhere is home – in the extreme. The voice of this piece is authentic with vivid memories of smells and feelings and everyday details of life, at some points excruciatingly so. I often thought of the bravery of being so personal and so detailed or her lack of caring what her parents might think of the words she wrote… or both. I wondered at points, could I write down, with this much honesty (or appearance of honesty) the ways my parents have made me feel. Newman puts herself out there to be judged by the people she knows and doesn’t know – and it’s refreshing and wonderful but also scary. Reflecting on this memoir, I wonder what Newman encountered with her parents after they read her memoir, assuming that they did. Or, based on the way she’s written about them, maybe they both said nothing. They now just know how they made her feel growing up and how much she loves them in spite of those things.
For all the seemingly negative things that happened, Newman shows a tone of appreciation for her parents and the adventures of all kinds that she had in her life, even the ones that made her feel alone and miserable. The distance at which she reflects seems to have brought that feeling, as she knows they lead her to be the person she is today with the career she has (now writing for Oprah’s magazine) and the wife and mother she has become. She now seems to respect the difficulty and realize that, no matter how hard some of it was, she can now deal with the pain and find something positive for her future in it. I find it all inspiring. I truly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to people I know – that are parents, aspiring travel writers, journalists, adventurers, and lovers of Alaska.
I have a feeling everyone who picks up this memoir will indeed find many things in common with the stories and the feelings of Newman. I believe that is a success of the book.