Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dancing At the Odinochka Review (Kirkpatrick Hill)

Nearly 150 years ago, when Alaska belonged to Russia and was called Russian America, Erinia Pavaloff lived at the Nulato odinochka on the banks of the Yukon River. Owned by the Russian American Company, an odinochka was a trading post where native people traded their furs for precious Russian supplies.

Then men from the American Western Union Telegraph show up to lay telegraph line. This marks a changing point in Erinia's life. . .

This is a book that I call a "lifetime story" - a book that doesn't particularly have one important plotline, but rather describes certain points in the life a person from when they are very little to some later point in their older life. So if you're looking for a "plotline" book, this will disappoint you.

Me, personally - I sometimes like "lifetime stories." They often give very interesting insight into different cultures and ways of living; the backbreaking work that accompanies such rugged life that is not advanced in its "technology." As a person who finds different cultures fascinating, these sorts of reads can keep me engaged for hours.

But this one didn't. The age range for this book is 9-14, but the writing style seems very childish even for 9-year-olds. I constantly felt that there ought to be little pencil drawings like in a child's picture book to accompany many of the passages. It annoyed me and detracted from what could have been very engaging descriptions of Russian, Indian, and some Eskimo traditions and beliefs.

This is based off a true story, but on top of the writing style was the fact that all of the characters (except maybe one or two) are good people. It made it feel even more as a work of fiction and less as if it were based off a true story. There is also a prevailing air of political correctness to the entire narration; this constant feeling of "oh, it's their culture, so it is okay, and in no way did Alaska benefit from becoming an American State." Perhaps it would have been different had it been written in first person - no doubt there were some people who did feel like that. But written as a third-person narration, it felt as if the Author were giving more of a lecture; like it was a belief that was shared by everyone.

I was disappointed with Dancing At the Odinochka. By Chapter Two, I was having a hard time becoming attached to any of the characters and engaged in what was happening - mostly because of how it was written. I do not think that I will add it to my collection.
Star Rating: 2/5 (it was ok)


  1. It seems like you read a very wide variety of books. I'm curious, how do you choose what you will read? I don't think I would have even noticed this book or known about it. Do you just shelf-browse until something catches your eye?

  2. I title browse when I am shelving books at the library, and I also have a list of authors whose books I have read before, and I periodically check to see if they've written anything new.


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