Review: Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod

After finishing up Into the Wild about a week ago, I found myself still thinking about Alaska and the pull of the Great White North. I remembered a book on my To-Be-Read pile that was set in Alaska, so I dusted it off and settled in for a WILD RIDE!!

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen is a humorous non-fiction account of the joy, beauty, terror, danger, thrills, and utter lunacy of running the 1180-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome.

From moose attacks and dog bites to crackling sea ice and sheer cliffs, from suckholes (frozen whirlpools) and 90 mile winds to murderous mushers and bitter cold, the Iditarod is not for wimps. It takes a certain kind of crazy for a person to attempt such a formidable test of their physical, mental, and emotional limits.

The story begins in the woods of Minnesota, where Paulsen’s obsession with his dogs and the beauty of the woods becomes so alluring to him that he forsakes all else in order to run dogs. He bonds so thoroughly with them that he begins to live with them, eat, sleep, and be with them 24/7. The dogs are born to run; semi-wild creatures (some part wolf), snapping, snarling, and fighting with each other while slowly becoming a cohesive team.

Paulsen crashes and careens around Minnesota, running the dogs for hundreds of miles before the Iditarod starts to take shape and form as a real possibility in his mind. The community gets behind him and gives him donations of money and gear. One person donates a truck and actually drives him to Alaska for the race.

If this was fiction, you might be rolling your eyes thinking, “No way could all these things happen!” But against every possible obstacle, and with fierce determination, Paulsen gets to Anchorage, runs the race, and miraculously lives through it. What a treat to be along for this white-knuckle ride!

7 Responses

  1. The facts show that the Iditarod is terribly cruel to dogs. Read the material on the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, http://www.helpsleddogs.org .

  2. […] For another book set in Alaska, check out my review of Winterdance:  The Fine Madness or Running the Iditarod […]

  3. I remember enjoying this book but haven’t got enough details in my head; I need to go back and read it again. You’ve reminded it to me.

  4. I LOVE this book…one of my favorite non fiction adventure books – Paulsen writes with humor and sensitivity.

    For Margery – who thinks working dogs are being tortured – not so! I certified a search and rescue dog and constantly had ignorant people suggesting I was doing something wrong by working my dog – it is not work for the dogs. They LOVE it…and even now that my dog is retired, all I have to do is get out my hiking boots and she goes nuts. She’d rather be “working” than doing anything else. There are always those rare instances of a handler not doing right by their dogs, but that is not the norm.

    *kicks away her soapbox*

  5. […] Winterdance: Gary Paulsen Shadow of the Wind: Carlos Ruiz Zafon Shantaram: Gregory David Roberts Q & A: Vikus Swarup The Book Thief: Markus Zusak Prisoner of Birth: Jeffrey Archer Hades: Russell Andrews Under the Banner of Heaven: Jon Krakauer The Stand: Stephen King […]

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