Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Point of Direction’
‘Point of Direction’
232 pages, softcover: $16.95
Ig Publishing, 2014
In Colorado writer Rachel Weaver’s exceptional debut novel, “Point of Direction,” Alaska drives two characters close to their psychological breaking points. Anna Richard, the book’s intriguing narrator, combines a habit of radical risk-taking with a tendency toward caution. As the book opens, Anna is hitchhiking back to Alaska after two years of drifting. She accepts a ride from a young man named Kyle, but refuses to sit in the pickup’s cab — she prefers to freeze in the back, her way of ensuring that he doesn’t bother her. When Kyle asks her what she does, she answers simply, “I move.”
They end up in a small Alaskan town, where Kyle takes fishing jobs and Anna bartends. Slowly, she begins to trust him. When the weather turns cold, they head south to Mexico, but even though they’re now deeply in love, Anna still refuses to tell him what spurred her headlong flight across the West. The next autumn, Kyle proposes they buy a $1 Coast Guard lease to live over the winter on an island lighthouse overlooking a treacherous channel. Townspeople warn them against it, and caution that the prior caretaker vanished.
But Kyle is eager and Anna agrees, hoping solitude will help her recover from the grief connected to a glacier-hiking expedition she led in Alaska a few years earlier. As she contemplates the lighthouse, Anna thinks, “I understand on some cellular level now that this is a place where all the rules are different, that this is a place where I have not yet failed.”
One of the most appealing facets of these two characters is their extreme competence — Anna can steer a skiff through a choppy channel and run a finicky outboard motor, knows how to chop wood, catch fish, smoke salmon and prepare for winter.
“Point of Direction” has a gripping plot, but its chief virtue might lie in its taut language. Weaver’s prose is honed and spare enough to fit in a backpack on a cross-glacier trek. The writing is precise and crystalline, each sentence carefully composed to capture the icy tragedy at the heart of this propulsive book, the chill that’s gripped Anna ever since, and the emotions that surge when her reserve finally starts to thaw.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.