NORTHWIND, by Gary Paulsen, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Jan. 11, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 10 and up)
A boy is forced to fend for himself along the Nordic coast in Gary Paulsen’s final novel, Northwind.
When a deadly plague reaches the small fish camp where he lives, an orphan named Leif is forced to take to the water in a cedar canoe. He flees northward, following a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next, unsure of his destination. Yet the deeper into his journey he paddles, the closer he comes to his truest self as he connects to “the heartbeat of the ocean . . . the pulse of the sea.” —Synopsis provided by Farrar, Straus Giroux
Gary Paulsen was a master storyteller. His ability to capture a person’s essence was remarkable. And that was never truer than in Northwind. It’s a character study of Leif, who spends the majority of the novel surrounded by nature rather than humans. His interactions with the natural world are full of danger and surprise.
Northwind is a beautiful narrative that draws you in from the beginning. Gary’s writing is elegant and sparse. You feel as if you are in the boat alongside Leif, paddling through the cold, blue waters. Though Gary wrote for young readers, his words will resonate with adults, too.
Northwind is among my top books by Gary. It should be on your to-read list if you haven’t already read it.
A personal note: A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Gary. It was a magical experience where it felt less like an interview and more of a conversation between friends. The call ended with him telling me that if I ever wrote a book, he’d introduce me to his agent. And while that never came to pass, his offer was very telling of his generous spirit. Gary died Oct. 13, 2021. He will be missed