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Reviewed by Donna Gielow McFarland for Readers' Favorite
North of Familiar: A Woman's Story of Homesteading and Adventure in the Canadian Wilderness by Terry Milos is a memoir of the author’s experiences homesteading in the Yukon for 19 years. The story begins in 1974 as Terry meets her husband and they decide to move to Canada to live off the land. It follows their adventures moving from place to place, working odd jobs, settling at Little Atlin Lake and raising a family in conditions with an almost unimaginable lack of modern conveniences. Milos conveys the incredible beauty of the land, but also the perils and close calls they experienced. Just coping with the cold (temperatures drop below -40F in the winter) requires ingenuity. She meanders through stories of survival, joys, disappointments and tales of closely knit community members who may be totally isolated, but they still find ways to party. The book has photographs scattered throughout of the people and places described in the story.
I enjoyed learning about all the survival skills needed to cope with homesteading in such a cold wilderness environment. Also, Terry Milos’ descriptions of the natural beauty of the area sounded like it is absolutely stunning. My favorite story in North of Familiar was when the moms decided to go moose hunting with their combined eight young children in tow. The photographs were good – I wish there were even more of them. There was one map at the beginning of the book and it would have been helpful to have a number of additional maps throughout. North of Familiar is more of an historical record than a novel. It is not a long book, but it took me a long time to read through it. I’m glad I did. I grew up reading Little House books and from North of Familiar I learned a great deal more about modern homesteading than I even knew there was to learn. Reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Milos also taught terms in various multi-grade school classrooms, although with unique field trips. Recommended for anyone who has ever romanticized the pioneer life.