Books & Literature

Book Review: Something About Alaska, by J. A. Cooper

YOUNG ADULT: Nearing 15, Zac Greene travels to Alaska to re-connect with the father he’s only ever known from a distance. But Zac’s dad is a lone wolf – a wounded soul who’d rather drown his regrets in a bottle of bourbon than confront the mistakes of his past.

A compassionate typification of a father/son relationship.

At (almost) 15, teenager Zac is sent to spend some time with his father in Alaska. It is clear from the start that their relationship is not perfect, and that this trip is one of restorative hope.

When Zac tries to prove himself to his dad, which means successfully mushing with the dogs along a trail, an argument ensues. This leads to Zac leaving, determined to make his way back to the airport to return home, solo. As it takes place during the Alaskan winter, however, Zac finds himself hitchhiking with a stranger.

With slow and full character development that demands compassion for all central characters, it is impossible not to appreciate all personalities in this story. This is despite it being written in the first-person narrative of Zac. Zac had arrived to achieve the uniqueness and beauty of the Aurora lights in his relationship with his father, yet the reality was a pursuit filled with unparalleled emotional danger, as if the backdrop of the threatening yet charming Alaskan landscape is a direct reflection.

His father, although capable of huge feats like competing in the Iditarod trail three times, is an alcoholic. His unpredictable nature is matched both by the Alaskan weather as well as the emotions of Zac, whose anger at his father quickly escalates to full heightened fear as he tries to work out the motivations of his newfound acquaintance, driver Stanley.

Although the story’s focus is on the father-son relationship, it is through Stanley that Zac develops the capacity to see his dad as a human as well as a father. Part of this occurs as Zac learns skills for survival, and through his wary dialogue with Stanley. Wise parables, including a variation of a traditional folk story (the cultural reference is listed at the back of the book), are scattered throughout the text.

Although the author leaves the ending unclear, it sets the stage for forgiveness and emotional reconnection. This is a characteristic tale of a disjointed father and son relationship, suitable for any audience. It is one of understanding, human growth, and maturation. An excellent debut novel from local Adelaide writing and communication teacher at Tabor College, James Cooper.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: MidnightSun Publishing
Released: August 2022
RRP: $19.99

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