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Booklights: Still Points North

I’m excited to start my new blog series, Booklights (like a spotlight, but for books!). At least once every few months, I will post about a book that has spoken to me in some way. Likely, you will not see books such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games mentioned in this series. Why? Not because I don’t love them (I am a big fan of both!), but because these books have so much exposure already. I’m hoping to bring new readers to some great books that may be lesser known, in a variety of genres.

To kick things off, let’s start with Still Points North, by Leigh Newman. Still Points North is a memoir, which is a genre I’ll confess I haven’t dabbled in much; however, this one was a treat. To avoid confusion, I will use “Newman” when referring specifically to the author, and “Leigh” when referring to Leigh’s character as written in the memoir. The book begins with Leigh’s childhood—split between Baltimore and Alaska--and later explores her adult life as a travel writer.

This book could probably stand alone on just the stories within it—Leigh leads a fascinating life, and a childhood on the Alaskan frontier is something unfamiliar to many of us. But what really shines about this book, for me, is the writing. Newman truly has a gift with words, and her prose inspire me. She describes the world around her in such a unique and vibrant way. I could probably turn to any random page in the book and find several striking lines. To give just a little taste, I love this description from the drive to Leigh’s grandmother’s house:

“Through the windows, the road smelled of wet salt and lizard. Little shells from the sandy soil popped and splatted under our tires. It was midnight or after. The only thing on in the house I could make out were the yellow windows, lit from the kitchen. My grandmother was inside, we could see by her shadow. But nobody came to the door, even when we banged and rang the bell.” (p. 32)

Aside from the amazing descriptions of the action and setting, Leigh’s internal dialogue is so honest and poignant. The reader feels every experience and emotion right along with her. In my opinion, Leigh is a pretty remarkable character, and it would be easy to write about her experiences in a way that feels boastful. Newman somehow does not do this at all. Leigh is extremely likeable, and Newman never holds back from showing us her flaws along with her strengths. I couldn’t help but root for her all through the story. I was captivated the whole time as I traveled with Leigh through her parents’ divorce, seeking friends, exploring new frontiers, the first buddings of romance, and unexpected pet ownership.

Without simply summarizing the story, I really don’t know what to say about this book that would do it justice except that you just need to read it. I’m definitely keeping my eye on Newman, because I fully expect to see more from her in the future (and if not, I’ll be really disappointed).

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