The History of Kate Shugak in 22 Objects – 7

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.


7 – Golden crowned sparrow

Although you people are killing me here, being all over the map as you are (the 747 engine! the bear! the pickup! the Cat! snow machines!) the most votes are for the sparrow.


We call it the “spring is here” bird, because it is when you first hear the notes of its song. Listen to it here.

It’s my favorite bird, singing the first bird song I ever recognized. Not to sound too precious, but it chose itself to manifest as the voice of Everybody Talks to Her, aka Emaa. I had no idea it would become a leitmotif of the Kate Shugak novels. One of those gifts from the writing gods.

Also, FYI, every single one of the bear stories in Breakup is true. Kate going backwards up the creek bank in full retreat from a pissed-off sow? That would have been my dad.

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Chatter Kate Shugak The History of Kate Shugak in 22 Objects

Dana View All →

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18 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Dana, you don’t make it easy on us either! Your books are so object rich that the mind boggles! While the halibut heart is a sore temptation the object can only be the salmon! It is the lifeblood of Alaska and this book covers it from all sides; commercial, sport and subsistence.

  2. Yes the halibut heart is tempting. But even though they are on Old Sam’s boat I wouldn’t choose it either. Yes there is the salmon but there’s the Aunties & the fish camp. I would choose the fish wheel.

  3. Another hard one. First I thought of the boat hook, then Old Sam, then the Freya and the Halibut heart. I think I will choose the Halibut heart. It really freaks Kate out. The funniest part of the book is when Old Sam dumps Kate in Prince William Sound and makes her walk to Mary’s.

  4. For me it has to be the halibut heart, because I really think it foreshadows the plot of the book, echoes of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart–what better parallel to Poe’s narrator than Neal? The fish wheel and the Freya are both tempting, though, and I have a sneaking fondness for Jim’s tape recorder, but the heart, beating so loudly and driving Kate mad! How can one resist?

  5. I nominate Amartaq Creek as it witnessed so much action; From salmon run, fish wheel and civil disobediance to a bear sumersalt, from playtime and snogging on river bank and in skiff, to and in the skiff to murder so cold, the creek ran through it all. It was provider, cleanser, spiritual and physical teacher binding old and young, human and nonhuman, murderer and victim and survivors together.

  6. I think it has to be the salmon. Apart from the book just swimming with them (sorry, couldn’t resist) both in Alaganik Bay and at the fish camp, salmon are such an essential part of Alaskan life in so many ways that there really isn’t another choice. As a resource for those leading a subsistence lifestyle, providing food for humans and dogs; as a cash “crop” for those earning a living from the sea; as a draw for Outsiders and a major food source for bears — if the Kate books, in their entirety, paint a picture of Alaska today, then the salmon have to be part of that picture.

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