Homestead: Book summary and reviews of Homestead by Melinda Moustakis


A Novel

by Melinda Moustakis

Homestead by Melinda Moustakis X
Homestead by Melinda Moustakis
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Book Summary

From National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree and Flannery O'Connor Award Winner Melinda Moustakis, a debut novel set in Alaska, about the turbulent marriage of two unlikely homesteaders.

Anchorage, 1956. When Marie and Lawrence first lock eyes at the Moose Lodge, they are immediately drawn together. But when they decide to marry, days later, they are more in love with the promise of homesteading than anything. For Lawrence, his parcel of 150 acres is an opportunity to finally belong in a world that has never delivered on its promise. For Marie, the land is an escape from the empty future she sees spinning out before her, and a risky bet is better than none at all. But over the next few years, as they work the land in an attempt to secure a deed to their homestead, they must face everything they don't know about each other. As the Territory of Alaska moves toward statehood and inexorable change, can Marie and Lawrence create something new, or will they break apart trying?

Immersive and wild-hearted, joyfully alive to both the intimate and the elemental, Homestead is an unflinching portrait of a new state and of the hard-fought, hard-bitten work of making a family.

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Media Reviews

"Spare and exquisite, tough and lovely. The sentences build on themselves, becoming expansive and staggering in their sweep…In a gulp of cherry wine, a bonfire and a birth, Moustakis finds magnificence in the smallness…The language of homesteading is the language of argument, of making a case for oneself. Marie and Lawrence lay out the evidence. They point to the reasons. They insist." ―The New York Times Book Review

"Absolutely remarkable…The writing is sublime, and the reader is instantly transported to this dangerous land. But the human struggles are where this book really shines, as Marie and Lawrence battle loneliness, numbing cold, loss, and the one big lie that threatens to destroy everything."―Historical Novel Society

"The wondrous descriptions of the back-breaking labor involved in clearing and farming the land, and of the region's vast beauty, will make readers feel like they're there. This evocative, well-drawn account of Alaska's American settlers is so convincing it ought to come with a pair of mittens."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Inspired by Moustakis' own family history and set during the Alaskan Territory's bid for statehood, this stunning debut novel considers what it truly means to own land. Recommended for fans of Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone."―Booklist (starred review)

"Think you've put in your time with emotionally unavailable men? Try making a marriage in the Alaskan wilderness with Lawrence Beringer. Nuanced and suffused with poetry, Moustakis' novel paints an indelible portrait of a couple finding their way in the wilderness. An atmospheric debut about the savagery of nature, learning to trust, and the wilds that exist within all of us."―Kirkus Reviews

"Moustakis is a writer of singular beauty, whether turning her attention to the Alaskan landscape or the intimate landscape of a marriage. Homestead is a luminous consideration of what it means for something or someone to belong to someone else, and of how fraught and tentative the labor of longing and belonging can be."―Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections

"I loved this book. The marriage is feral, the child-rearing frost-bitten, the betrayals and redemptions jagged as mountain peaks. In blazing, poetic prose, Moustakis brings 1950s Alaska roaring to life."―Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors

"To read Homestead is to be swept into the Alaskan wilderness of an early marriage. Both intimate and epic, this novel questions the very meaning of origin and ownership. Moustakis writes with the hunger and heat of a pistol, the coolness of cherry wine and vanilla snow. A gorgeous feat of storytelling."―Rachel Swearingen, author of How to Walk on Water

"Moustakis's evocation of place is breathtaking: reader, I doubt you will be able to finish this novel without falling in love with her Alaska, too. With Annie Proulx's precision of detail and Ron Rash's nuanced characterization, Moustakis's debut marks a major literary achievement."―Nick White, author of How to Survive a Summer

"Part fever dream, part wilderness adventure, part family saga, in prose both elegant and resonant, Homestead tells of a broken, bitter man and an impulsive girl who battle it out to stake their claim, not on each other after all, but on 150 acres of unproven and break-your-heart-beautiful land in an Alaska on the verge of statehood."―Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

"With haunting clarity and lyrical grace, Moustakis harnesses the power, the seductive beauty, and the divine treachery of the natural world to tell an epic story of survival and restless longing. Moustakis is a writer whose crystalline prose dazzles on every page. Homestead is an absolute triumph!"―Amber Dermont, New York Times bestselling author of The Starboard Sea

"This book casts a spell. A quiet, immersive, and gorgeously written exploration of love, war, guilt, and forgiveness that asks how well one person can ever truly know another."―Ash Davidson, author of Damnation Spring

"Homestead ardently depicts a fraught and complicated moment in history through the most intimate of lenses: that of a young marriage built on uncertain ground. Moustakis has given us―in sentences as beautiful and brutal as the landscapes they describe―a haunting portrait of the terrain of the heart."―Jennine Capó Crucet, author of Make Your Home Among Strangers

This information about Homestead was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review


It was honestly nice, I loved it. You can write/publish more books like this!

Amy A. (Buffalo, NY)

Buying another copy!
I was over 100 pages into this book and then lost it. I am truly heartbroken!

I was so quickly drawn into this story. The author had an amazing ability to describe the reality and hardships of 1950s Alaska. The characters had so much depth that I cried with and for Marie.

I don't want to read any other reviews because I don't want spoiler alerts, but I can't wait to finish this book.

Jackie R. (Clark, NJ)

A Great Debut
The subject of the book homesteading in Alaska in the 1950s had my interest. This is a well written debut about courage, endurance, and knowing your limits and strengths as well as discovering your partner 's. Marie and Lawrence build a life and a history together in the wilds of Alaska. This is a great read for a book club!

Susan W. (Berkley, MI)

Homestead: an Alaskan Love Story
Simply put, this novel is about homesteading in the territory of Alaska in 1956. But it is really more than that. It is a surprisingly sensitive story about human nature, change, lies, and trust. Through the characters Lawrence and Marie, their families, and other lesser characters, the reader feels the urgency of homesteaders' lives. I appreciated the author's economy of words in the short chapters and constantly changing voice in the narratives. Her style worked for me.

This passage stuck with me: "Why gain light if only to lose the light? Worse than not having is the having and the taking away. Not having, there is the want and waiting of having." Then it continues, "We want everything because we got nothing."

I am haunted by these characters. In a good way.

Gary R. (Bolingbrook, IL)

150 acres!
I found this to be a really enjoyable read. Set in Alaska in the 1950s from an American territory to statehood, this is the story of one man, Lawrence, trying to make a home for himself, and one woman from Texas who is visiting her sister and brother-in-law and happens to fall for Lawrence. The trials and joys of living life in the wilds follows. A very good read, thanks to bookbrowse and the publisher for the copy, I'll be looking forward to more from the author.

Barbara B. (Evansville, IN)

Lessons Learned in Marriage
Lawrence and Marie Beringer bit off more than they could chew when they married less than a month after they met in Alaska,1956. It was a marriage built on infatuation and physical attraction. They had many lessons to learn while they lived in an old bus and slowly cleared 150 acres of land near Matanuska Valley and Pioneer Peak over a period of two years. They were homesteaders who barely knew one another.

Each chapter of the book is a monthly chronicle of their marriage building and property construction. The author's prose detail their emotions through thick and thin with astute and fresh writing. The characters have hidden feelings, sometimes allowing lies to mask their daily lives. It's wonderful to read such an original work of fiction.

I am so pleased that BookBrowse allowed me to read this novel about homesteading in Alaska. My own grandfather homesteaded in the 1930s with The Matanuska Colony project, now Palmer Alaska. It was a rough life for the Hermons, but they remain in the Palmer area to this day.

...16 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Melinda Moustakis

Melinda Moustakis was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and grew up in California. Her story collection, Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories, won the Flannery O'Connor Award, the Maurice Prize, and was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 selection. Her work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Alaska Quarterly Review, Granta, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere, and has been awarded an O. Henry Prize. She is the recipient of the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the NEA Literature Fellowship, the Kenyon Review Fellowship, and the Rona Jaffe Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Homestead is her debut novel.

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