Leigh Newman’s short story collection – Nobody Gets Out Alive – is a delight. I consumed it over a weekend, and have been recommending it to people ever since. All the stories in this debut collection (2022) are loosely but skillfully connected; all are set in or about Alaska, the author’s home state. The stories are mostly about Alaskan women, as they struggle to survive, as one reviewer says, “not just grizzly bears and charging moose, but the raw legacy of their marriages and families.” Most are set in the recent past/present day, but the last story is historical fiction, set in Anchorage in 1915. All are well-crafted, funny, sharply drawn, sad, and psychologically rich.
I liked them so much that I borrowed and read Newman’s first book, Still Points North (2013), a memoir about her coming-of-age as a dual citizen of Alaska, where her father lived, and Baltimore, where her mother moved after her parents’ divorce. From the time she was eight, Newman had to navigate the two very different worlds that her parents lived in, as well as their very different lives. You struggle with her as she tries to fit in both places. She fills the pages with amazing side stories about her adventures in the wilderness of Alaska with her father and about her escapades as a travel writer in her young adulthood. All of them support a compelling and beautifully written narrative about the sometimes crooked path to adulthood, self-knowledge, and happiness.
I don’t know which I liked more, and I highly recommend both!