Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger
Bantam, Sep 23 2008, $22.00
Sam and Hadley West are stunned to learn their beloved adult son Paul died in a plane crash in a remote part of the Alaskan Arctic wilderness. Instead of helping each other through the grief process, the Wests go their separate ways, each coping alone. As they file for divorce, Sam feels a deep need to visit the exact spot where Paul died; while Hadley runs away to a Maine barrier island turning to painting for catharsis.
Thousands of miles apart, they exchange letters telling the other what they could not explain in person. Each looks back at their long marriage with fondness and love. Sam is nearing the end of his trek, but the most arduous journey begins as he uses a dog sled to go from the last outpost Laika Star to the crash site. Hadley believes her Sam deserted her on a fool’s errand until the letters keep on coming explaining his obsession while she responds explaining her obsession.
Soap operish as at times too overly emotional, readers will still relish this engaging look at grieving the loss of a son. Interestingly the tale works because the lead couple comes across as shallow with Sam only thinking of himself and Hadley angry and acrimonious. Over the course of the letters, readers understand what distress and agony can do to caring loving people as grief is a singular journey of the mind and heart.