Sunday, 12 October 2014

Compass North By Stephanie Joyce Cole

As per my usual modus operandi, I did not read the blurb as I do despise anything that may spoil the story. I suppose then, you will think my review a bit ironic as I will be revealing some of what this story is about.
Meredith’s marriage has recently come to an abrupt end, the how and why are withheld as the author uses a piecemeal approach to tell the story. We first meet Meredith on a travel tour in Alaska. Her fellow travellers are retired couples who take Meredith under their wing, until tragedy strikes leaving Meredith in a confused and bewildered state. As a result, shock induced decisions lead Meredith to a remote town that is in stark contrast to the life she has left behind.

"She rested her fingers ever so lightly on the keys. 
There was probably an obituary. She shivered, and her hands retreated into her lap. The idea of looking up her own obituary was terrifying, bad luck somehow, as if it would mean that she was really dead. 
There might have been a story about the accident in the paper back home. Probably just a mention that a local woman had died. 
Her hands stayed in her lap. Her palms were sweating, and she rubbed them against the legs of her jeans. She could look up the law firm website to see what Michael’s profile said now. Would it say he was still married? " - Stephanie Cole 

Presumed dead Meredith arrives in this little town with only a rucksack to her name, too risky to use her credit cards, she needs time to consider the ramifications of her actions. With the assistance of two travel companions Meredith ends up with loggings at Rita’s home, an elderly lady with a hard exterior but tender heart. With Rita not being a big talker and Meredith not keen on revealing her past their living arrangement works well and the two form a strong but silent bond. Before long Meredith is living a new life with an unknown identity.

Forging new friends and attracting a love interest in the form of a rugged and strong fisherman, Meredith is opening a new chapter in her life but her guilt riddled conscious is becoming a hindrance. With her past threatening to expose her, Meredith risks losing her past and her present if she does not face the reality and consequences of her disastrous marriage.

" What did she have to offer him? How could she explain to him why this pain cut so deeply in her, how the soft inside of her was already so bruised that his walking away had torn her open? How could she make him understand when everything that made her this way was a secret?
He was real. She was a fake. Her muddled thoughts roared in her head.
She brushed her hand lightly down his arm and turned to walk toward the cabin, leaving him looking out over the water. She ached inside, she was empty, and she had nothing else to say." - Stephanie Cole

The author describes the harsh yet beautiful environment of Alaska in such vivid descriptions you cannot help but feel you are there. However at times I felt the description slowed down the pace of the story, with many that I felt were unnecessary. A few of Meredith’s decisions were hard to fathom and left me slightly frustrated. However as the story progressed and more of her past was revealed my empathy for Meredith’s actions rose and I even shed a tear or two imagining myself in such a situation. I would have liked a more concrete ending to this book but the author left my imagination with enough information to fashion my own. J

Overall I liked the thought provoking premise of this book, which invoked feelings we can all relate to in some scenario or another. Despite a wealth of in-depth details that showed how ties and bonds were formed, the author’s style allowed you to understand the depth and meaning of each of Meredith’s new experiences and connections. The cold Alaskan weather was clearly imprinted in my mind and I was all too eager for Meredith to get in doors. The harsh environs were a double edged metaphor for Meredith’s polar and tumultuous feelings, which were in sharp contrast to the numbness she often felt. Yet the beautiful landscapes bespoke hope and a simple humanist need for survival which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Stephanie Joyce Cole

Author Bio:
Stephanie Joyce Cole lived for decades in Alaska.  She and her husband recently relocated to Seattle, where they reside with a predatory but lovable Manx cat (no tail!) named Bruno. Stephanie has a law degree from UCLA and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Since 1986, she has been associated with Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR), an award-winning literary magazine housed at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.  She is currently a Senior Affiliate Editor for AQR.  When she's not writing, she's hiking, creating ceramics, practicing yoga, traveling, volunteering and discovering new ways to have fun--and oh yes, reading, reading, reading. 

( I was given a copy of Compass North in return for my honest review)

As always feel free to  your thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Tamara, for your thoughtful review. Compass North is in the process of being republished, with a new cover, so it's not currently available on Amazon. However, I have a number of download cards available, and will give free download cards to readers (up to 10) who contact me on my website (


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