Book Review: “Water Mask” by Monica Devine

In Book Review, Trip Report by scott

“Water Mask”

I just re-read Monica’s memoir, “Water Mask.”  The first time through, I chuckled, nodded and recalled my own similar experiences throughout Alaska: skiing, fishing, traveling and exploring. All the while I marveled at how a place, Alaska, had become a part of me and my family.

Monica and I have been friends for about 40 years—and we both arrived in the state after college at about the same time.

Seriously, I could have placed myself in many of the wonderful stories she tells in the book—they are iconic experiences in the Great Land: flying in a Bush plane in bad weather, or sailing in the open ocean with big waves.

Monica has a gift of weaving her stories around a common theme: water. Readers learn about life along the giant Copper River and the migrating salmon which are harvested each year. The Kuskokwim River snakes through Southwest Alaska—you’ll read about Monica’s travels up and down the river to many villages that line the banks.

Then there are the mighty oceans. There’s the Arctic Ocean, which sustains villages like Kaktovik and Utqiagvik. And the giant Pacific Ocean, which Monica and her friends sail across, bringing a boat up through the Inside Passage and across the tumultuous Gulf of Alaska to Prince William Sound.

Flowing through these chapters are essays about family, friends, favorite places and the spell that Alaska casts upon those who call this place “home.” 

When she writes about the crispy -30 degree winter days in Fairbanks, I get a chill. When she tells the story of the Copper River overflowing its banks, I can hear the river roar.

Monica’s collection of prose, poetry and reflection weaves a lovely tapestry of her life in Alaska: family, work, adventure and friendships.

Enjoy the journey of love, loss and discovery in Water Mask. At the end, you might understand how a place like Alaska can capture you…just like it captured Monica. And me, too, btw.

Below, a photo of Monica in 1981, skiing on the Ruth Glacier in the shadow of Denali…back when it was called “Mt. McKinley”. Photo by Carl Dixon.

Monica Devine skis Denali. Photo by Carl Dixon.

WATER MASK, published by the University of Alaska Press, is available at all online booksellers, in addition to independent bookstores throughout Alaska.

Monica Devine is an award-winning author and artist. She is the author of many children’s books, including “Kayak Girl” (also published by University of Alaska Press).

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