“Life up here may be simple but it’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. Water runs out; pipes freeze; engines won’t start; it’s dark for eighteen, nineteen hours a day, for months. Even longer in the far north. Up here it’s about having enough food to eat, and enough heat to stay alive through the winter. It’s about survival, and enjoying the company of the people that surround us. It’s not about whose house is the biggest, or who has the nicest clothes, or the most money. We support each other because we’re all in this together.”
Calla Fletcher left the Alaskan wild at only two years old when her mother took her to Toronto, leaving behind Calla’s father and a place she could never come to call home. Twenty-four years later all Calla knows is a busy, city life, when she learns of her estranged father’s diagnosis. Soon after, she finds herself back in the small Alaskan town where she was born and braving the unfamiliar terrain in an effort to finally get to know her father. While life in Alaska is a tough adjustment for her, it is the perfect fit for Jonah – the pilot who helps run her father’s plane company – who is convinced that the city girl is not cut out for the rural life. What begins as animosity eventually turns into friendship and possibly more. But going down that road may mean repeating her parents’ mistakes.
The Simple Wild is a big mix of emotions. The novel has quite a slow start and it took me at least a quarter of the book to get into the story. However, when I did, I could not put it down. Initially it is mostly learning about Calla’s parents’ past and setting up a fish-out-of-water story for Calla. This part didn’t particularly work for me in terms of gaining my interest because I felt absolutely no empathy for these characters or their circumstances. Calla and her mother are meant to come across as city people that are accustomed to a certain lifestyle, but they just read as spoiled and high-maintenance. I know this is meant to show the stark contrast between the lifestyle Calla is used to and what she experiences in Alaska, but I just don’t think it was necessary and takes away from the impact of the overall story. In fact, the way Calla’s life in Toronto is set up makes her struggle with certain decisions kind of confusing.
What I did love was the father/daughter relationship and the wonderful close-knit community in the fictional Alaskan town. The way Calla and her dad reconnect and come to terms with the past is beautifully done and heartwarming. It really touched me and made me feel invested in these characters. I also loved Jonah and the rapport between him and Calla, which made me chuckle on a number of occasions. So, I liked this book although there are aspects that did not work for me at all. A big mix of emotions, but ultimately worth a read.