I admit it. The first thing I did after receiving Mary Albanese's book, Midnight Sun, Arctic Moon: Mapping the Wild Heart of Alaska was look at the photo inserts. Most of the photos featured a sweet-faced, slender woman sporting a wide smile and (depending on the picture) a large, mushroom-shaped stocking cap, a very feminine straw hat and flowing skirt and blouse, a gigantic backpack, or a gun, among other things.
That was it. I was caught.
"I am awed," Albanese writes, "by the way writing holds the collective text of humanity, defining who we are and what we are as a species. Yet, at the same time, it defines each one as unique, yielding a fingerprint of the soul and explaining why each of us matters."
As a young woman, Mary Albanese followed her heart to Alaska to obtain her Master's Degree. She had been accepted into both the education and geology Master's programs at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and had to decide between them when she got there. She chose geology, even though her studies up until that time would have made education the more logical choice, and she never looked back. She lived, studied, and worked in Alaska for ten years, doing geological studies and mapping parts of Alaska where no person had walked before. In the process she gathered about her an eclectic group of friends including "Amazing Grace" and the man who would become her soul mate and husband. In a field dominated by men, Albanese worked determinedly and steadily to make her place, leaving the Alaskan home of her heart only when forced to by circumstance. It is clear, though, that she left some of her heart in that wild state along with her cozy little A-frame cabin and tiny grave in a birch-filled cemetery.
Albanese writes in a very simple, direct manner. Although not given to lengthy descriptions of Alaska's immense beauty, or even of the individuals she encounters, Albanese paints a clear and compelling picture of her life in the late seventies and early eighties. She does not go into great detail; indeed the experience of reading her book is more like being taken by the hand down a corridor with doors on either side, occasionally being pulled into a room to see it in greater detail. In some rooms we find laughter and joy, in others, sadness, hurt, anger, loss or triumph.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Dr. Mary Albanese was, in the 1970s-1980s, one of a handful of female geologists charged with mapping Alaska, which at that time contained large expanses of land where the geology was uncharted and unknown. In a field dominated by men, she spent 10 years as a geological field explorer. She has since lived in different parts of the United States and Britain. Mary has received writing awards in a variety of genres, from inspirational, science fiction, comedy, to romance. Visit her website.
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