Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

This was a book that had been recommended to me. In this case, it pays to listen to recommendations. Other than knowing that the race begins in the first weekend in March, I knew next to nothing about the Iditarod race before reading this book.

Gary Paulsen gets the outrageous idea that he could participate in the Iditarod: most of the book is a mixture of laugh-out-loud hilarity and the somber realities of running the race. His recounting of preparing for the race makes it clear to me that I will never participate (as if I had a chance). Gary begins his training at home, where his wife Ruth puts up with his obsession. She supports him whenever and wherever she can, which includes driving with him to get his dogs for the race. Money is always tight, but Gary is able to obtain support from various members of the community. He describes several times how people walked up to him, handed him money, and said, “This is for the race.” Supplies were donated as well.

Prior to his first attempt at the race, there had been only two other people “from the lower 48” to have attempted it.  Not only did Gary not know what questions to ask, he did not even know who to ask! But, somehow he perseveres against incredible odds. His training stories are some of the funniest. He has such an indomitable spirit that you cannot help but root for him.

His descriptions of the landscape are great. He paints a beautiful picture of Alaska in its natural beauty and its people. He also captures the harsh reality and the triumphs of the Iditarod race. And, the ending may come as a surprise; the last chapter is titled “An End,” which gives me the impression that this book is not necessarily “the” end.

Find a copy of this book in our library catalog.


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