From the International bestselling author of The Underside of Joy comes an atmospheric novel about a man who returns to his Alaskan hometown after twenty years
Alaska doesn't forgive mistakes. That's what Kachemak Winkel's mother used to tell him. A lot of mistakes were made that awful day twenty years ago, when she died in a plane crash with Kache's father and brotherand Kache still feels responsible. He fled Alaska for good, but now his aunt Snag insists on his return. She admits she couldn't bring herself to check on his family's house in the woodsnot even once since he's been gone.
Kache is sure the cabin has decayed into a pile of logs, but he finds smoke rising from the chimney and a mysterious Russian woman hiding from her own troubled past. Nadia has kept the house exactly the samea haunting museum of life before the crash. And she's stayed there, afraid and utterly isolated, for ten years.
Set in the majestic, dangerous beauty of Alaska, All the Winters After is the story of two bound souls trying to free themselves, searching for family and forgiveness.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
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Evening crept its way into the cabin, and she went to get the knife. Always this, the need to proclaim: I was here today, alive on this Earth.
She took the knife from the shelf to carve a single line in the log-planked stairwell that led from the kitchen to the root cellar. She'd carved them in groups of four one-inch vertical lines bisected with a horizontal line. So many of them now, covering most of the wall. They might be seen as clusters of crosses, but to her, they were not reminders of death and sacrifice but evidence of her own existence.
There were left-behind carvings too, in dated columns filling the doorjamb on the landing at the top of the stairs. These notches marked the heights of growing children, two living in the forties and fifties, and two in the seventies and eighties, one of whom had grown quite tall. She saw the mother standing on a footstool, trying to reach the top of her son's head to mark the wood with pencil, while he stood on tiptoes, trying to appear even taller. She almost heard their teasing, their laughing. Almost.
Six stairs down, she dug the tip of the knife into the wall. The nightly ritual was important. While she no longer lived according to endless rules and regulations, with all those objects and gestures and chants, she did not want her days flowing like water with no end or beginning-shapeless, unmarked. So she read every night, book after book, first in the order that they lined the shelves, turning them upside down when she finished reading and then right side up for the second read and so forth, returning to her favorites again and again. And during the day, she did chores-foraging, launching and checking fishing nets, setting and checking traps, gardening, tending house, feeding chickens and goats, canning and brining and smoking-all in a certain order, varying only according to the needs of the season. Her days always began with a cold-nose nudge from the dog, and not one but two enthusiastic licks of her hand, as if to say not just good morning, but Good Morning! Good Morning!
Then there were the mornings she ignored the dog and unlatched the kitchen door so he could push it open with his nose to let himself out while she returned to bed to stay, dark mornings that led to dark days and weeks. During those times, only under piles of blankets did she feel substantial enough not to drift away; they kept her weighted down and a part of the world. But her dog's persistence and her own strong will eventually would win over, and she'd drag herself up from the thick bog and go back to her chores and her books, carving the missing days into the wall so they did not escape entirely.
It was surprising, what a human being could become accustomed to-a lone human being, miles and years from any other human being. She balanced two more logs and a chunk of coal in the woodstove and, with the dog following her, crossed the room in the left-behind slippers, which had, over time, taken on the shape of her own feet. She'd been careful to keep things as she'd found them, but those slippers were another way she'd made her mark, left her footprint, insignificant as it might be.
She sat in the worn checkered chair and picked up one of the yellowed magazines from 1985. Across the cover: Cosmetic Surgery, the Quest for New Faces and Bodies-At a Price. "A new face, this would help," she once again reminded Leo, who thumped his tail. Unlike the people in the article, she said this not because she was wrinkled (she wasn't) or thought herself homely (she didn't). "It would give us much freedom, yes? A different life."
She opened the big photography book of The City by the Bay and took in her favorite image of the red bridge they called golden and the city beyond, as white as the mountains across this bay. So similar and yet so different. That white city held people, people, people. Here, the white mountains held snow. "And their bridge," she told Leo, closing the book. "We could use that bridge." He cocked his head just as she heard something scrape outside.
A branch. In her mind, she kept labeled buckets in which she let sounds drop: Branch, Moose, Wolf, Bear, Chicken, Wind, Falling Ice, and on and on. Leo's ears perked, but he didn't get up. He too was used to the varied scuttlings of the wilderness. She drew the afghan around her shoulders and opened a novel to the page marked with a pressed forget-me-not.
Yes, she knew a certain comfort here-camaraderie, even. How could she be truly alone, when outside her door, nature kept noisy company and at her feet lay a dog such as Leo? Then there were the books. She'd traveled inside the minds of so many men and women from across the ages. And she had such long, uninterrupted passages of time to think, to ponder every turn her mind took. For instance, there was the word loneliness and the word loveliness. In English, one mere letter apart, and in her handwriting, the words looked almost identical, certainly related. This she found consoling, and sometimes even true.
But now, another sound, and then many unmistakable sounds-determined footsteps coming toward the house. Leo's ears flipped back before he plunged into sharp barking and frantic clawing. She froze. All those years practicing what she would do, but she only sat, with the book open in her trembling hands. Where did she leave the gun? In the barn? How had she grown so careless?
The knife on the shelf in the stairwell. She bolted up to grab it. Flipped off the lights, took hold of Leo's rope collar, tugging him from the door and up the stairs to the second floor. She peered out the window. Though the moon was full, she couldn't see anyone. She pulled the shade, but it snapped up, so she yanked it back down. With all her strength, she dragged Leo, pushing and barely wedging him under the bunk bed with her, and clamped his nose with her hand just as the loose kitchen window creaked open below. A male voice, a yelling, though she didn't hear the words over Leo's whining and the blood pum-pumming in her ears.
It was him, she was sure of it. Shaking, shaking, she squeezed harder on the handle of the knife and wished for the gun. But she was good with a knife; she was sure of that too.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I, too, have always been intrigued with Alaska and I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into a family and town through the eyes of 3 generations.
How does Kache Winkel emotionally survive the deaths of his entire family in an airplane crash? How can he justify joy in anything when their joy was forever wiped out in an instant? How does Nadia learn to enjoy anything after she has abandoned her loving family and religion because of a secret shame? "All the Winters After" by Sere Prince Halverson weaves a wonderfully conceived and written tale that provides satisfying answers to these questions and others. Nadia and Kache are not the only riveting characters. Kache’s ninety-year old grandmother Lettie, and his loving Aunt Snag are memorable for their own reasons involving grit and loneliness. In this well-paced novel, the pieces of Kache’s and Nadia’s separate lives are inexorably drawn together in the richness of town and country Alaska. I have never been to Alaska and never had an interest in going until I read this book. The author has convinced me it is beautiful, caring country that should be on my “Journeys To Take” list. I so much enjoyed the journey that reading this novel offered.
A beautifully written story about a man who returns home, a woman who can’t, and how they find each other. The novel is set in the vast wilds of Alaska with colorful characters who never become stereotypes, but reflect their unique setting. Alaska is well depicted and I learned things about our frozen state that I never knew before. Yet it’s the main characters of Kache and Nadia who sucked me in and kept me reading. I laughed, cried, and rooted for them on their bittersweet journey to discover themselves as they faced the nightmares of their past, and struggle to trust and love each other.
Alaska is huge and so is this story. There is huge loss, huge growth and huge love attained between the pages of this book. Lettie is a nonagenarian and the matriarch of the Winkel family. Decades previous to the beginning of this book she had a dream, took her husband from the Kansas dustbowl to Alaska and thrived. She is old but not out of the picture and still has things to accomplish before her daughter and grandson can move forward with their lives. Eleanor “Snag” Winkel is in her sixties and believes that love has passed her by. She had dreams but none have really been fulfilled. Little does she know that once her painful secrets are shared her life will change in many ways and all of them positive. Kachemak “Kach” Winkel returns to Alaska to see his grandmother two decades after he lost his entire family in an airplane accident. For twenty years he lived a life that was monetarily rewarding but not necessarily fulfilling. His return to Alaska is the best thing for him and will give him insights he did not have before. Nadia has squatted in the Winkel family home for a decade. She has run from abuse and in so doing lost her family and all she knew before. When Kach shows up on her doorstep her life begins to change and evolve in ways she has only imagined before. This book is one that made me think. It made me wonder. It made me want more for myself and for the characters in the book. When I finished the last page I wanted more…because…the end was not an end but really the beginning. Thoroughly enjoyable and well worth reading – I thank NetGalley and SOURCEBOOK Landmark for the copy of this ARC to read and review. 4.5 Stars