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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Spirits of the Wilderness is a nonfiction autobiography written by Keith M. Sheehan. Sheehan’s dad was a Nassau County Police Captain who taught firearms safety to the new recruits in the Police Academy. He also instilled in both of his sons an interest in, and respect for, firearms and hunting. His dad always stressed that what you shot, you ate, and both sons grew up knowing how to dress the waterfowl, rabbits and other prey they hunted. Sheehan’s introduction to shooting began when he turned seven years old, and his dad took him to the shooting range for his first lesson. At fourteen, his dad introduced him to Tito Ballestrieri, a two-times Olympic gold medal holder and considered one of the all-time finest riflemen in the world.
After graduating from high school, Sheehan joined the army where he became a member of the All Army Rifle Team. Far from complaining about his stint in the military, Sheehan glowingly recalls the opportunities he had for sharpening his shooting skills and learning under some of the world’s finest coaches. After completing his service, Sheehan worked for an insurance company, got married, had kids and purchased a home. Then he had an epiphany. His life, while seemingly perfect, was not at all what he wanted it to be. He needed adventure. He came home from work one day and told his wife that he wanted to quit his job, put the house up for sale and relocate to Alaska. They would build a cabin in the woods and “live off the land.” She didn’t like the idea and the two separated, but she did agree to let him take their small family along with him. The twenty-seven-year-old veteran did just that.
Spirits of the Wilderness answers the usually unresolved question that hits many a would-be adventurer -- what if I moved to Alaska and lived in the bush? I was astounded not by the fact that he did it, but that he actually succeeded while taking his young children along. I love the stories about Alaska and found myself entranced with the book from the first few lines, but, while I love fishing, hunting has never really appealed to me, even with the provision of eating what one catches. I kept an open mind as Sheehan and his clients went after bear and other wildlife in Alaska. Aside from that, Sheehan’s book is beautifully written, the photographs he includes make the reader feel like he is there, and the stories are, for the most part, marvelous. Spirits of the Wilderness is highly recommended.