cover image Homestead


Melinda Moustakis. Flatiron, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-84555-9

Moustakis shines in her debut, the dramatic rendering of a young couple’s homesteader life in mid-1950s Alaska. Marie Kubala, having fled a dreary life in Texas, visits her sister and her husband, Sly, in Alaska, hoping to find a husband. Meanwhile, Lawrence Beringer, a Korean war vet from a small Minnesota farm, arrives with big dreams for his 150-acre claim in the Alaskan territory. The two meet at a lodge, where they bond over a shared excitement at the prospect of owning their own land. Moustakis adroitly traces their trajectory as they marry and throw themselves into the rigors of setting up a home in the wild. It takes a while for Lawrence to become intimate with Marie, and their relationship strengthens under false pretenses after he lies about adding her name to the land deed. Later, they face devastating challenges while trying to start a family, as well as catastrophic dangers in the wild, and Marie’s questions about the deed push them to a boiling point. The wondrous descriptions of the back-breaking labor involved in clearing and farming the land, and of the region’s vast beauty, will make readers feel like they’re there. This evocative, well-drawn account of Alaska’s American settlers is so convincing it ought to come with a pair of mittens. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Feb.)