Out of the Wilderness

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2000

By Deb Vanasse, Reviewed by Steven Yenzer

Out of the Wilderness book cover

Out of the Wilderness, by Deb Vanasse;
Clarion Books: New York, 1999; $15

When I dimmed the lights and sat down, I expected a good book. That is not what I got. I got a great book. In Out of the Wilderness, Deb Vanasse’s extremely descriptive writing complements the vast complexities of the Alaskan wilderness. The symbolic artwork on the jacket depicts a howling wolf set in front of a beautiful aurora borealis. I believe it shows the sheer beauty and harshness of the wild.

The characters are each unique in their own way. Nathan, brother to Josh, is to wildlife as Picasso was to art. He sought cover in bears’ dens, and claimed to have a mystical connection with them. He’s willing to sacrifice himself to live by his high standards. Josh, the main character, is disgusted with his brother’s feelings about wildlife. However, they aren’t considered when his brother is hurt by his own obsession.

Shannon and Pete, who are brother and sister, are opposites when it comes to wildlife. Shannon has feelings for wildlife as Nathan does, but she is not obsessed with the subject. Pete makes Josh his idol, even though he is not exactly comfortable around dead animals. Another character in this book is the father of Nathan and Josh. He always worries about Nathan, his son. Frank, father to Shannon and Pete, is caring and generous. He gave up the cabin that his friend let him use to Nathan.

Now that I’m done with the long list of confusing characters, I am going to tell about how I felt as I turned the pages of this book. I can relate to Nathan’s obsession because of, surprisingly, my obsession with the Internet. What I mean is that I make the Internet my top priority, instead of focusing on my schoolwork or anything else. That is similar to Nathan’s thoughts, as he makes his own safety, and even that of others, less important than his desire to bond with animals. This shows when Nathan camps out in a bear den and is attacked by a female bear protecting her cubs. I can relate to Josh in that sometimes I ignore a friend I am angry at, but if they need help with something, I forgive them and try to help. That’s like Josh, because he is annoyed with Nathan because of his thoughts about animals, but when Nathan is injured by the bear, Josh risks his life to save Nathan’s.

All in all, Deb Vanasse’s Out of the Wilderness is a great book that arouses thoughts about the wilderness.

Out of the Wilderness Steven Yenzer

Steven Yenzer, 11
Columbia, Maryland

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