Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.
Readers of McPhee’s earlier books will not be unprepared for his surprising shifts of scene and ordering of events, brilliantly combined into an organic whole. In the course of this volume we are made acquainted with the lore and techniques of placer mining, the habits and legends of the barren-ground grizzly, the outlook of a young Athapaskan chief, and tales of the fortitude of settlers—ordinary people compelled by extraordinary dreams. Coming into the Country unites a vast region of America with one of America’s notable literary craftsmen, singularly qualified to do justice to the scale and grandeur of the design.
Residents of the Lower 48 sometimes imagine Alaska as a snow-covered land of igloos, oil pipelines, and polar bears. But Alaska is far more complex geographically, culturally, ecologically, and politically than most Americans know, and few writers are as capable of capturing this complexity as John McPhee. In Coming into the Country, McPhee describes his travels through much of the state with bush pilots, prospectors, and settlers, as well as politicians and businesspeople who have their eyes set on a very different future for the state.