Book Review: Shannon Huffman Polson’s North of Hope

It’s rare you’ll read books, especially in the faith section, that deal with very dark topics, and North of Hope really does get depressing, but it also provides insight to something people don’t often discuss their personal experience with and that is grief. While Polson’s writing style is a tad difficult to read through she does capture grief well, and she discusses her dad and stepmom’s death, which is captured in the darkest way. This book isn’t a lighthearted read and really goes there as far as emotions.

After Shannon’s parents are killed in a grizzly attack in the wilderness of the Alaska, Shannon desires to retrace their last journey before the final spot where they died at. While exploring the terrain she also reflects on memories of her father, and her grief with music. As Shannon searches to make sense of the tragedy she journeys with her adopted brother, Ned and his wife, Sally. Mostly, though she needs to experience the process on her own of understanding her dad and trying to find this last connection to him.

What was so surprising by the end of this memoir is how emotionally stirring it was. There were points near the end as she arrived to the site where her parents lost their lives that almost brought me to tears. The flashbacks and places where she ties in going to gather their things after their deaths that help strengthen the connection you feel not only to Shannon, but also her parents. It also discusses a touchy subject that no one really likes to think about and that is loss.

During reading this book it got me to thinking over how everyone will eventually experience loss as Shannon has, and for this reason it might even be a good book to keep on hand for when that occurs. Probably the only thing lacking is that while Shannon vaguely discusses her faith she never seems to completely utilize it as a strength for that time or moving on. To be honest, by the end it isn’t fully clear what she gets out of the whole trip, and the fact the writing style sometimes lumbers doesn’t help.

There were times I struggled to not zone out as I read. For some reason the writing style doesn’t read as exciting or jumping off the page. She does have some very poetic ponderings she weaves into her story though that do help, and it is refreshing to read a woman’s journey as she tries to navigate life because it seems often that only men write these type of stories.

Shannon has wrote a moving memoir that does leave you with a lot of feelings after you have finished the book. Not many books deal with the topic of grief and such personal loss probably because it is difficult to share and very tragic when it does occur. She is so candid though in her experiences and even her broken relationship with her brother that it ends up making it a must read.

Rating 7 of 10.

This book was provided by Handlebar Marketing in exchange for a review. 

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Shannon Huffman Polson’s North of Hope

  1. I also read and loved this book. I don't agree that her prose is “lumbering.” It's absolutely beautifully crafted and fluid. And her faith is woven throughout the book, but she never preaches at the reader–again, I saw this as a strength.

    It’s the kind of book that stuns you with its beauty, even as it describes some difficult things. I have not suffered loss like Shannon did and yet her observations felt applicable to my life–I found myself nodding in agreement at her insights about grief, God and the way that any suffering transforms and strengthens us–eventually. She did not pretend that this was an easy journey, but ultimately, it was a hopeful one. I also recommend it. The Author’s blog at is also a must-read.


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