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Nobody Gets Out Alive

Leigh Newman's fictional debut story collection

Author Leigh Newman is a delectable treat for any reader but specifically for those like us: wilderness dwellers. While her fictional debut story collection Nobody Gets Out Alive is set in Alaska, her rich depth of perspective and personal experience in this vast jewel of a place is what grounds us—and her characters—throughout the entire collection.

For anyone who has read her memoir, Still Points North, this story collection is seemingly a fictional sequel to the grandiose theme of survival—something that we Northwesterners often refer to in a physical sense due to our population of grizzly bears, mountain lions, and moose among other fanged or big-bodied creatures. In her memoir, Leigh explores her surroundings for all of us to see and feel. When she gasps, we gasp. And Nobody Gets Out Alive is true to that tone but sets out on several different journeys of survival only to circle back to one shivering discovery: that survival isn' the end game. Her steadfast loyalty to the wilderness we all find ourselves in—physically and emotionally—creates the perfect canvas for each character to manipulate, and when layered one on top of the other, we feel new versions of Alaska come alive in our hands.

Leigh brings all of a woman's complexities to the forefront with equal parts softness and pugnacity. Her characters are not too hard-shelled by their state of residence nor by their life experience for us to snag small, beautiful moments of sharp truth. Leigh lends us just enough details about their pasts to suspend our disbelief that these women are indeed our mothers, sisters, daughters, or friends. Their decorative worlds are so expertly articulated and Alaska itself starts to feel like a character who morphs from one story to the next.

These tales about women trudging through the difficult landscape of a male-dominated Alaskan society remind us of our stark reality: that nobody gets out alive. There is no first class seat that avoids the turbulence of divorce, abuse, secrets, family, or friendships. In fact, despite our level of comfort with flying, we're all aboard the puddle jumper because these pages are the great Alaskan adventure and there isn't another way to get there.