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In the late 1960's, in the small community of Bethel, Alaska, a beaten teenager named Dove Alexie is in prison. One day, he mysteriously vanishes, and curiously, there is no mention of hi s arrival or departure on the prison records. Four young people in Bethel tell their stories, and the narrative circles around Dove ? their unseen companion.
Told with humour and insight, Unseen Companion spins together four unique voices that capture the ...
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In the late 1960's, in the small community of Bethel, Alaska, a beaten teenager named Dove Alexie is in prison. One day, he mysteriously vanishes, and curiously, there is no mention of hi s arrival or departure on the prison records. Four young people in Bethel tell their stories, and the narrative circles around Dove – their unseen companion.
Told with humour and insight, Unseen Companion spins together four unique voices that capture the complexities of human existence and the search for one's place in the universe.
o Based on the author's own experiences living and doing social work in fourteen Alaskan bush villages, which left Orenstein uniquely qualified to write the kind of loss and hopelessness presented in this novel.
o An intriguing and layered narrative structure, unique voices, and a brilliant over–arching metaphor that sums up one's place in the universe make this a unique and resonant book that will stick with readers for years to come.
Ages 12 +
In rural Alaska in 1969, the lives of several teenagers come together while trying to find out what happened to a sixteen-year-old boy who is missing.
|Lorraine Hobbs: Bethel, Alaska; Spring 1969||3|
|Annette Weinland: Bethel, Alaska; Spring 1969||36|
|Thelma Cooke: Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Japonski Island, Alaska; Fall 1968||57|
|Edgar Kwagley: Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Japonski Island, Alaska; Fall 1968||96|
|Lorraine Hobbs: Bethel, Alaska; Spring 1969||125|
|Annette Weinland: Bethel, Alaska; Summer 1969||159|
|Lorraine Hobbs: Bethel, Alaska; Summer 1969||189|
|Thelma Cooke: Bethel, Alaska; Summer 1969||210|
|Edgar Kwagley: Bethel, Alaska; Summer 1969||214|
|Lorraine Hobbs: Bethel, Alaska; Summer 1969||229|
|Annette Weinland: Bethel, Alaska; Summer 1969||261|
|Lorraine Hobbs: Bethel, Alaska; Fall 1969||287|
This is the spring we all hear about the wild man locked up in the Bethel city prison. "He ain't got no fingernails," I tell my mama soon as I walk in the front door from buying a strawberry parfait ice-cream pop at the Tundra Shack. "They say that savage, crazy man up at the prison ain't got one single fingernail. Turns out he pulls them all off one by one, smack in front of Marshal Nicholsen."
"And why, pray tell, would anyone do a fool thing like that?"
I can see Mama ain't buying none of it. And ain't it just like her, always wanting to hear more before coming to any judgments at all. Plain dull and boring to always be so calm, if you ask me. She just sits there with a mess of sewing on her lap, not even giving me the courtesy of looking up for a single minute.
"Don't ask me," I answer, sitting down at the kitchen table next to her, "but sure don't seem likely that someone's gonna fabricate up something strange as that."
"Oh, no?" Mama chuckles and chews off a knot from a tangled-up piece of yellow thread. "Folks 'round here can stir up a can o' worms quicker than you can say 'land of the midnight sun.' I wouldn't necessarily believe all the chatter goes 'round town."
Mama can be downright aggravating sometimes, never listening to what nobody says about nothing. She's just used to seeing things her own way and probably always will. But I gotta admit it's been hard for her, right from the start, seeing as Mr. Willie Resse Hobbs leaves her after two years of marriage.
"Ain't nothing but a sorrowful man," Mama says whenever his name is mentioned, "but let sleeping dogs lie; never do care to find out whatever happens to that crazy SOB."
So I don't even get to meet him, my daddy, though it sure feels strange calling him that; I never do exactly know how I'm to refer to that man. Goes and leaves my mama with one little baby in Dorchster County, South Carolina, and if it isn't for Grandpa Tulley, Mama's own daddy, I just know where all of us would be right now. Grandpa Tulley (I don't remember much of him) has a job up Prudhoe Bay, working on that dang pipeline. When he sends for mama and me, but by the time we make it up north, he's going to meet us in Bethel to get some summer cash working the barges, the old man done up and dies. Just like that.
"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on," Mama says, sitting in this old plywood shack with honeybuckets instead of a proper outhouse. "There's work to be had in this little town, and I'm of the mind to get it." So we end up just staying right here in Bethel, and my mama, she works herself to the bone, holding two jobs to make ends meet, doing cooking for the jail and the receiving home (the big trailer where the orphan kids live) plus taking in sewing from anyone too lazy or rich to do it themselves.
Poor Mama, she does let herself go, tying back her stick-straight graying hair always in the same bun, always wearing the same blue jean overalls or brown corduroy pants and some old plaid flannel shirt, an apron always around her waist, needles or straight pins in her mouth. Her face ain't nothing to brag on neither (never a fleck of Max Factor's lipstick or pressed powder, don't you know), kinda square boned about the jaw, her forehead lined deep, her nose wider than it should be, and her lips lopsided as if she's been chewing at a corner of the top, the lower one sticking out more than a smidgen. But when you look into her eyes, and they're hard to resist, you just forget about everything else and get dunked deep into Mama's strange spell. She has a way of staring at you hard so that it's impossible to look away, and then them giant, golden pupils start spinning.
There ain't two ways about it -- there's just no one in this here world can pull the wool over my mama's two whirling eyes, and I'm smart enough to just about stop trying.
But I do hate to say it, Mama ain't one to do herself up pretty, and her apron sure has to be let out some every year -- seems like she gets wider and wider. And she don't seem to mind a little bit, laughing and smacking her tummy as if she's almost proud. When I mention that it looks like she picks up a little, she just grins and says, "More of me to go around, some lucky man's gonna get a real pile of woman to hold on to. Sometimes I feel uglier than a mud fence after a seven-day rain, but I sure am one hundred percent real woman."
I just laugh right along with her but do wish she wouldn't talk low class like that when anyone else's around. Appearances aren't everything, I know that, for heaven's sake, but it's important for a girl to keep herself up as best as she knows how. I'm also of the mind that it's essential for a person to improve on herself in order to really get anywhere in this world, and no matter what blows life sends you ("How to Take Charge of Your Wardrobe," Today's Teen), you just got to make the best of it. And I do fully intend to start by enhancing my natural good looks ...Unseen Companion. Copyright © by Denise Orenstein. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted August 29, 2003