Reviews of Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman

Nobody Gets Out Alive

Stories

by Leigh Newman

Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman X
Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman
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  • Published:
    Apr 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Book Summary

From the ​prizewinning, debut fiction author: an exhilarating virtuosic story collection about women navigating the wilds of male-dominated Alaskan society.

Set in Newman's home state of Alaska, Nobody Gets Out Alive is a collection of dazzling, courageous stories about women struggling to survive not just grizzly bears and charging moose but the raw, exhausting legacy of their marriages and families. In "Howl Palace"—winner of the Paris Review's Terry Southern Prize, a Best American Short Story, and Pushcart Prize selection—an aging widow struggles with a rogue hunting dog and the memories of her five ex-husbands while selling her house after bankruptcy. In the title story, "Nobody Gets Out Alive," newly married Katrina visits her hometown of Anchorage and blows up her own wedding reception by flirting with the host and running off with an enormous mastodon tusk.

Alongside stories set in today's Last Frontier—rife with suburban sprawl, global warming, and opioid addiction—Newman delves into remote wilderness of the 1970s and 80s, bringing to life young girls and single moms in search of a wilder, freer, more adventurous America. The final story takes place in a railroad camp in 1915, where an outspoken heiress stages an elaborate theatrical in order to seduce the wife of her husband's employer, revealing how this masterful storyteller is "not only writing unforgettable, brilliantly complex characters, she's somehow inventing souls" (Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light).

This is the complete text of "Howl Palace"

HOWL PALACE

THIS SEPTEMBER, I FINALLY PUT Howl Palace up for sale. Years of poor financial planning had led to this decision, and I tried to take some comfort in my agent's belief in a buyer who might show up with an all-cash offer. My agent, Silver, was a highly organized, sensible woman who grew up in Alaska—I checked—but when she advertised the listing, she failed to mention her description on the internet. "Attractively priced teardown with plane dock and amazing lake views," she wrote under the photo. "Investment potential."

I am still puzzled as to why the word "teardown" upset me. Anybody who buys a house on Diamond Lake brings in a backhoe and razes the place to rubble. The mud along the shoreline wreaks havoc with foundations, and the original homes, like mine, were built in the sixties, before the pipeline, back when licensed contractors had no reason to move to Anchorage. If you wanted a house, you either built it ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In "Howl Palace," the first story in Nobody Gets Out Alive, the protagonist carefully prepares her home to be viewed by prospective buyers, even though "Anybody who buys a house on Diamond Lake brings in a backhoe and razes the place to rubble" (page 1). In your opinion, what is she attempting to show the family who will purchase Howl Palace?
  2. Consider what we are told about Dutch's wolf room. Where did the wolf pelts come from? Why do you think they are so important to Dutch? What might this room and its contents represent for her?
  3. In "High Jinks," Katrina's and Jamie's families are "twin families and each other's only real family, since their other families, with grandparents, lived thousands of miles away, in the Lower 48." What role...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Newman deploys multiple points of view to stunning storytelling effect in "Alcan, An Oral History," which focuses on several wayward people traveling from the Lower 48 to Alaska. There are enough twists and turns here to propel a novel or a feature-length film; these are entertaining, tender portraits of people with unmet needs and big dreams. The narrative consistently renders human consciousness with exquisite compassion and detail. The chronology is non-linear, and the final piece in the collection, "An Extravaganza in Two Acts," takes place in 1915 in the region now known as Anchorage. The author explores early white settlement here, and foreshadows decades of ecological exploitation...continued

Full Review Members Only (906 words).

(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
These stories are rich with wit and wisdom, showing us that love, marriage, and family are always bigger and more perilous adventures than backcountry trips...Bighearted stories of domestic discord by a writer with a cleareyed view of Alaska's romance and hardscrabble realism.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Newman's electric debut collection follows hardscrabble women in Alaska whose rough exteriors conceal myriad vulnerabilities...The author's crisp portrayal of the Alaskan landscape and rugged culture holds the collection—and its magnetic characters—together. Newman firmly establishes herself as a talent with these stunning stories.

Author Blurb Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
Nobody Gets Out Alive is a stunning debut collection, with the most generous ratio of wickedly funny details to devastating plot lines. It's a joy to travel through these characters' overlapping Alaskas, where violent longings go thrashing under the frozen stillness of the everyday, and the hard, hot work of navigating the wilderness of family can give way at any moment to 'a dazzle of ice and blue and light.'

Author Blurb Kimberly King Parson, National Book Award Finalist, Black Light
Emotionally astute and slyly funny, Nobody Gets Out Alive is a commanding examination of home, family, intimacy, and self-reliance. With exacting precision and endless wit, Newman gracefully leaps into any perspective she pleases—you get the impression she's not only writing unforgettable, brilliantly complex characters, she's somehow inventing souls. This is a stunningly beautiful debut collection by a masterful prose stylist.

Author Blurb Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears
Nobody Gets Out Alive is a thrilling collection. Leigh Newman's indelible characters chart the turbulent waters of hope and regret in an Alaskan landscape that crackles with danger and wonder. These are gritty and powerful stories, from a wildly gifted writer.

Reader Reviews

Martha Little Munson

The Other Side of Alaska Life
Best book about the harsher side of year-around living in Alaska - the "Real Deal" about subsisting in an unfriendly-but-free wilderness, with independent characters you can't forget.

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Beyond the Book

Small Aircraft Transport in Alaska

Piper Super Cub DL3157 airplane above water Small airplanes are a common form of transport in Leigh Newman's collection of short stories, Nobody Gets Out Alive, set primarily in Alaska. Several of the stories take place on a lake where homes boast "seaplane docks." Alaska is a vast, sparsely populated region where it's estimated that around 80% of communities exist beyond the reach of roads, making air travel essential.

Bush planes, also known as STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) aircraft, can land on short runways. With rugged "tundra tires," they're able to land in a clearing or meadow without pavement. Planes can also be outfitted with skis to land on snow or ice, and seaplanes are designed to land on water. Such conveniences matter in a region with active glaciers, a long ...

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