Brendan Jones, author of The Alaskan Laundry, wonders if home is something you build, or if it’s something you’re born into.
Home, of course, is a moving target. Coming back east to visit family in New Jersey and Philadelphia—flying over the Navy Yard, picking up a soft pretzel in a brown paper bag in the Philly airport concourse—over the past few years it’s hard not to feel as if, on some level, my wife and I are coming home when we bring our daughter to see her grandparents. Then again, we live on a World War II tugboat in Sitka, Alaska. Our daughter first helped butcher a Sitka black-tailed deer at eight months. She’s definitely an Alaska girl, although we do encourage her Rocky look. Yo, you looking at me?
The conceit of my novel The Alaskan Laundry, which takes place both in Philadelphia and Alaska, is that the 49th state is an industrial-sized washing machine on continuous cycle, allowing all those who come to the last frontier to get clear of their checkered pasts. Such a project is impossible, as I came to discover at the age of 19, when I first arrived in Alaska, and spent nine months living in the woods.