The Alaskan Laundry

 The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones

Great story. Tara Marconi arrives in Alaska young, angry and running - from the loss of her mother, a father who kicked her out, a boy who's upset with her for leaving, and an assault she's been silent about. She knows what she's running from but has little idea what she's headed for.

She will be belittled and harassed by men who think women don't belong in the wilds of Alaska and aren't capable of doing the dangerous work needed to bring in the loads of salmon and crab that provide their living. And she'll have to cope with fierce and unpredictable weather, unfriendly bears, betrayal by friends, and a bad-tempered boss who might have become a friend if she hadn't hit on her in a hot tub. 

She commits to a year working at a salmon hatchery, then moves on to better jobs until finally landing a lucrative position on a King Crab boat headed to the Bering Sea. In all these situations she struggles to prove she's strong and capable enough to be of worth to her bosses. Her colleagues won't make it easy.  

Soon after arriving Tara sets her heart on buying an old wooden tugboat tied up at the dock, taking on arduous jobs that pay good money in order to buy it before someone else does, or the harbourmaster gets fed up with it taking up space and sinks it. It's the dream of owning and living on it that keeps her pushing through the hardest days. Well, that and letters from the boy back home.  
Alaska stands out as character in itself, and though it sounds magnificent, I didn't finish the book eager to pack my bags. For me the images of Tara's gruesome jobs and brutal working conditions overshadowed descriptions of forest, ocean and quirky people. Actually some of the people weren't so much quirky as loutish and unlikeable. I was quite happy when she finally clocked one of them.  

I got lost in this story and hated to put it down, even when the descriptions were vivid enough to make me gag and the f-word was used to the point of monotony. You just can't help but root for this kid. She's fearless when it comes to making her own way in the world and doesn't back down from the most harrowing challenges. One minute you're frustrated with her, the next you're holding your breath willing her to survive.  

Brendan Jones has given us a protagonist for the ages. I may forget her name, but never that indomitable spirit. She's a force to be reckoned with. 


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