For What He Could Become: A Story of War, Friendship, Alcoholism, Homelessness, and the Purifying Power of Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race

For What He Could Become: A Story of War, Friendship, Alcoholism, Homelessness, and the Purifying Power of Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race

by James A. Misko


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780964082618
Publisher: Square One Publishers
Publication date: 01/01/2017
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,262,378
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

James A. Misko was born in Nebraska, then moved to Oregon and Alaska, completing what for him was a natural bridge to the frontier. He has worked as an oil field roughneck, a logger, truck driver, saw mill hand, teacher, journalist, real estate broker, and writer. With numerous published articles and five novels to his credit, he continues to work at being the best author of fiction he can be. Jim and his wife Patti live in Alaska during the summer and California in the winter.

What People are Saying About This

Simon Barrett

"I read many books and it is not often that I say 'WOW,' but this book is one of them. For What He Could Become chronicles one mans life. Bill Williams. This book is really four intertwined stories, four phases of this mans life. In many ways it is like a play with four very distinct acts.​

In Act 1 we are introduced to Bill, he is a 17 year old Athabaskan Indian living in a small Alaska community. He feels suppressed and depressed by his peers and the elders. His solution is to escape from the confines of the village and make his way in life. A 90 mile walk and river boat ride later he finds himself in Fort Yukon, where he becomes part of the workforce building the AlCan Highway.

In Act 2 we see Bill involved in World War II, although his active participation is short, it is clear that he has the ability to succeed and lead people. Some might call it heroism, some might call it self preservation, either way it is clear that Bill has the 'right stuff.' He uses his native knowledge to show others how to survive in a harsh environment.

In Act 3 Bill returns to his small community Arctic Village in triumph, only to discover that his brother has stolen his childhood sweetheart. In despair Bill heads back to the big city to seek anonymity amongst the masses. Two unfortunate and unrelated incidents occur and Bill finds himself penniless and homeless. He slips into the dark world of the drunk, begging money for the next bottle, and learning how to 'work the system.' This once proud young man slowly falls into the long middle age of the homeless pan handler. He has several skirmishes with the police, he also spends more than a few nights in hospital, apart from the whiskey bottle his only friend is the Salvation Army Major. The years of self abuse are becoming evident; with his health deteriorating there seems to be little hope for Bill.

To find out about Act 4, you will have to read the book! This is a superbly written piece of literature. Mr. Misko has done a great job both in research and execution. I work with the homeless population in Calgary, Alberta, I know many "Bill"s. It is sad, it is injustice, and it is life. This book could almost be used as a text book about the problems of alcohol and homelessness, and I plan on getting my co-workers to read this book. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough."

—Simon Barrett

Dick Mackey

"Great book!!!! Cathy got hold of it first and almost could not put it down until she finished it. She never reads a book. Then my turn. I didn't like it, I loved it. The story was so true to life and what I have seen so many times throughout Alaska. The race part was so perfect that I got cold, was elated, depressed, all the emotions one gets while actually running. It took me out on the trail again, especially the early years. Congratulations."

—Dick Mackey, winner of the 1978 Iditarod, and author of One Second to Glory

Skip Lynar

"I was not expecting a full blown action and emotion packed, transporting reading experience. I could not put it down, and once the race started, did not. When I had finished . . . I reread it cover to cover. In forty years of fairly steady and broad based book devouring, I have seldom done that! You're in good company: Kipling, Faulkner, and Scott."

—Skip Lynar

Esq. Stephanie Patel

"The other book, For What He Could Become—also a first—was penned by a recent acquaintance of mine, Jim Misko. I purchased the book as a gesture of solidarity, but I had low expectations of it. Jim, after all, is a realtor, and everyone knows realtors can't write—they just fill in the blanks.​ Three days later, I finally put the book down. I had taken it with me everywhere: to bed, into the loo, to the bank so I could read while standing in line, to my last CLE where I concealed it behind the handout as I read (a trick I learned in ninth grade algebra).

In the course of those days, I burned a batch of cookies, spaced a dentist appointment, and almost fell down an escalator opening when I was walking with my nose between the pages. Good work, Jim! The tension in this book is impeccable. Never so lax I wanted to quit reading, never so intense that I skipped to the end to find out what happened. Both books are set in Alaska, but while Mike's story exploits the Alaskan mystique, Jim's adds to it. His prose is as spare and powerful as the tundra on a winter day. Somehow Jim has managed to write an entire book without adjectives, and write it convincingly.

As his protagonist Bill wanders away from Alaska, the characters seem to become more two-dimensional, less individualistic, as if that part of Bill's life is dreamlike, unreal, until he returns to the local color. I like to think that this is a style that portends something uniquely Alaskan (although Jim's second book, which I have not read, is set outside Alaska). I have my own idea of what happened to the protagonist, Bill, after the book ends; Jim, when I explained it to him, disagreed with me, but, after spending three-hundred and some pages with the man, I know Bill—better than I know Jim. And I like Bill the better for his flaws and his destiny, that the beauty of the human soul lies not in its backdrop, but in its moments of transcendence."

—Stephanie Patel, Esq.

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For What He Could Become: A Story of War, Friendship, Alcoholism, Homelessness, and the Purifying Power of Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
faithancolburn More than 1 year ago
Starting with a bear hunt that goes terribly wrong. half-Athabaskan Bill Williams faces plenty of terrifying events. Most terrifying for him, though, the need to decide what to do with his life--a decision he avoids at all cost. After the hunt, Williams makes his first decision, maybe his only decision, to go out into the world and make his fortune. He plans to make $10,000 and then come back and marry the girl. He barely gets started before he's conscripted into World War II. In France, he takes a leadership role, but after a harrowing experience during the Battle of the Bulge, he goes home to find the girl married to his brother. Again he leaves home, but can't seem to decide what he wants to do. This reluctance reminds me of William Kittredge's memoir, Hole in the Sky, when Kittredge laments the fact that he'd lost a lot of time waiting for life to happen to him. Unlike Kittredge, Williams not only can't decide, he also drifts into self-destruction. He just can't translate his success in battle to peacetime achievement. His path to a life he can take pride in remains obscure throughout most of the novel while we, as readers, can't help cheering him on and hoping he'll get his act together.. Great character and compelling story that could probably be told about a lot of us to one degree or another.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
James Misko’s book took me on a ride I never imagined I would experience. In direct prose that is never overblown or superfluous, Misko takes us into the world of Bill Williams, an Athabaskan native as he comes to terms with the hand life has dealt him and which he plays, for better and worse, over the next forty years. Bill is a deeply flawed man, yet we come to identify with him and care about him, as an 18 year old in WWII and as a 48 year old Iditarod racer. It takes a skilled writer who enables the reader to experience his characters’ world, not only to read about it. “For What He Could Become” is never predictable, but always believable. I recommend this book without reservation.
Rochelle_LaMotte_McDonald More than 1 year ago
"For What He Could Become" is the story of Bill Williams, a young Irish-Athabaskan man with a plan. He's going to leave his village, get out of his older brother's shadow, and make his fortune working on the Alaska Canada (AlCan) Highway. Then, he plans to return home, to marry the girl he loves. Wait! You can't just have happily ever after so easily. While he is working on the highway, he receives an invitation from Uncle Sam, to report to the European Theater during World War II. After being away for three years, he returns home to find things have mainly stayed the same, but he can no longer marry the girl he loves. With nothing in the village to keep him there, Bill decides to take his military separation pay and look for work in the big city (Anchorage). Soon after getting a good job, Bill is introduced to a nemesis that few Native Alaskans have any resistance to: Alcohol. That same night, he is beaten and robbed and, as a result, he loses direction, becoming part of the system. Along the way, there is the tantalizing prospect of gold (if he can find the spot). When he thinks he's at his lowest point, Bill finds himself recruited as a last minute replacement musher, in the first Iditarod race. Bill may not have been able to see the potential for what he could become, but his friends could. Can Bill make it over a thousand miles, to the finish line, or does alcohol have too strong a hold on him? Follow this action packed adventure to the end, to find out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jim Misko's novel For What He Could Become is mostly a man's book, a story a man might like for one reason or another. It's rough, it's raw, it's harsh, it's terrifying, it's heartbreaking. Since I am a woman, and a romance author, I like a happy ending. Some of my stories have rough, mean, and harsh characters and scenes, but nothing like Jim has written down, telling his story of the young Alaskan Native American. Read the blurb for the full account. But what I want to say is this--I couldn't stop reading this long novel, and when I did close it for the night, I waited patiently until my reading hours in the evening to continue Bill Williams' story. Mr. Misko has a wonderful writing style--vivid, clean, not messy with extra explanations or descriptions--he writes it as if it is happening. Thank you, Jim Misko. Five Stars Rising Star Reviews