By Courtney Kendall
Set in the first decades after the United States purchased the Alaska Territory, this year’s Whatcom READS book features rich descriptions of the Alaskan wild, a compelling adventure story, and a fascinating glimpse at the burgeoning fields of naturalism and photography in the late 19th century.
To the Bright Edge of the World follows Lieutenant-Colonel Allen Forrester as he leads a small expedition into the interior of the Alaska Territory to document and map the United States’ newest purchase. At the same time, Forrester’s wife Sophie, an amateur naturalist and birder, finds herself adrift in the Vancouver Barracks in Washington Territory. Her foray into photography is documented through her diary entries lush with descriptions of birds such as “dark-eyed juncos” and a Rufous Hummingbird, “the red feathers of its throat set afire” in the sunlight.
Told in epistolary form with a variety of narratives, To the Bright Edge of the World skillfully weaves history, naturalism, and even a touch of magical realism throughout its pages.
~ Review written by Courtney Kendall, who represents Whatcom Community College on the Whatcom READS planning committee.