The History of Kate Shugak in 22 Objects – 18

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

Kate_Cover_18Man, I havered over this one. My pick going in was the secret drawer, or drawers, the one in Auntie Joy’s armoire that contained the manuscript, the one in Jim’s father’s writing desk that held the clue to his true parentage, and of course the one in Old Sam’s compass, which Kate probably wouldn’t have found if Jim hadn’t found the one in his father’s writing desk first. You could even include where Old Sam hid the map, not exactly a drawer but a pretty efficient hidey-hole for anyone who didn’t know him as well as Kate did.


The secret drawers are of course emblematic of all the secrets held by the Shugak family in the Park, the Bannister family in Anchorage, Jim’s family in California, maybe by all families everywhere. You have a family. You know the ones. Google images for secret drawers; you’ll find a million of ’em. Secret drawers aren’t exactly a secret. Secrets never are, either.

But then Ginger said

I love where Old Sam hides the map and that Kate knows how he would have hidden it once she saw the the special hiding place in her aunts china cabinet that Old Sam made for her.

and Megan agreed, and so did Mary and Jody and Helen, and then Arlene practically wrote a dissertation about all the possible objects, concluding

the more I thought about it, the more it came to me that the manuscript encompassed everything: the icon, the nugget, Old Sam’s history, Auntie Joy’s history, the map, even if some of them are not explicitly mentioned in it…and all those things, one way or another, went toward making Kate who she is, even if she only learned about them in the course of this book.

This was a tough one.

I’m sticking with the secret drawers. After which I can be found hiding out under my bed.

Though Not Dead is my favorite of all the books I have ever written. I got to tell the last hundred years of Alaskan history through the eyes of a single character, something I’ve always wanted to do, and I got to send Kate on a scavenger hunt, which was a lot of fun, and then after I sent Jim off to California to get him out of the way he up and had an unexpected life of his own, which is always a gift from the writing gods. And then there is one of my favorite Kate scenes ever

The SUV was the second car back from the corner, behind the same electric pink Cadillac Seville that Kate had slipped in front of when it stalled out.  It was driven by a woman with big hair who wore a sparkler on her right hand that gave out a series of blinding flashes as she tapped her hand on the steering wheel to Van Halen.  She was still talking on her cell phone.  The bass reverberated all the way back to the Subaru.  The arrow was red but she was looking left at oncoming traffic, waiting for a gap to pull into.
    Kate looked left and willed the driver of the white Bronco to look her way before the light turned green.  He, too, was talking on his cell phone.  She rolled down her window.  “Hey!  Hey, mister!”
    He looked up and then over at her.  She gave him her most dazzling smile and goosed the Subaru ahead a couple of inches, nodding at the lane.
    He responded with a scowl and pulled up to within a whisker of the chrome bumper of the ancient Buick Skylark in front of him.
    The light turned green.  The electric pink Cadillac Seville started to turn, the SUV snarling bad-temperedly right behind it.
    She looked back at the man in the Bronco, who was watching at her with a smirk on his face.  He was still talking on his cell phone.  Hell, every second person at this intersection was talking on their cell phone.
    Kate grabbed the hem of her T-shirt and yanked it up to her neck and this time didn’t bother with the smile.
    The smirk vanished.  His cell phone dropped from his hand and his foot slipped off the clutch.  The Bronco lurched and stalled.  An older man in a panel truck in the lane next to him had seen the whole thing and was laughing so hard he had tears streaming down his face.  She threw him his very own spine-melter of a smile as she pulled her T-shirt back down and slipped in behind the Skylark, which was already put-putting up to the light.  She made it onto Tudor just as the light changed back to red, six cars behind the SUV.

Kate knows how to get the job done. Okay, enough with the bragging.

the 23rd Kate Shugak novel
coming April 11, 2023
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Dana View All →

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12 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks Dana for noticing my comment. I read through it again. Should have written that the map was in the old cabin that Old Sam built. I wish this place really existed. It would a great place to go and just lose yourself and forget the rest of the planet.

  2. I know it’s all about Alaskan aviation but I have to cast my vote for the Alaskan State Trooper. When you have not one, but two troopers in all of their “blue and gold glory”, and hunks to boot, I’m sorry, but it’s time for the troopers! 🙂

  3. This book had so much going on. Favorite person, Moses Alakuyak. Favorite place, Bill’s. Just the description of the burgers made me hungry. For me the object is 2 different items. First, the thumb drive with all of Finn’s dirty dealings. Second the M4. Irene Grant is killed by one that her Dad’s arms dealing put into the hands of the enemy. Then the terrible scene at Tina’s house where the M4 kills 2 people. And I loved that Dana brought the Alexei Kosygin back(I think it is the same one from Midnight Come Again). I like that Kate makes a great waitress, she is good at everything. Great visuals of Kate and Mutt riding around on the ATV. And of course 2 gorgeous Alaska State Troopers to add to the scenery.

  4. This is actually the Kate book that makes me laugh most-odd, because it’s a terribly sad book overall, but it’s full of those little chuckle moments.
    Okay, so, the object. I think I’m going for the plane this time. Aviation is inextricably linked with Alaska, and it’s an integral part of the series, but this is the book that depends most heavily on planes and flying. So if we can’t go with planes in general, I vote for Wy’s Cessna.

  5. I’ve thought long and hard about this one. There is something that I feel really strongly about and I’m running out of books! I’m going to go slightly off piste in going for an object that although mentioned isn’t actually in the book. It is something that is at the core of Kate – and it is her history we are talking about. It is something that has motivated Kate all her life, it has shaped her, made her what she is. It relates to so many problems in all the books. Because she asks for this but has to have something else, because, after all, it’s what real women drink! my vote goes for a can of Diet Seven Up.

  6. I’ve been thinking about cell phones and the impact they’ve had on Kate and the other Park rats. Twice in this book Kate resorts to her cell when she finds herself in a tight spot (one of which literally is a tight spot!). In both instances — the freezer chest and the hold of the Russian ship — she gets out without the assistance the cell would have summoned — once through her own grit, strength, and ingenuity, and once thanks to the timely arrival of the Coast Guard. My point is, though, that the cell provides a safety net she didn’t have previously. Granted, Kate often finds herself in places where there’s no cell service, but knowing that in many cases help may be just a phone call away does, I believe, change one’s thinking and mental attitudes.

    Additionally, witness the influx of 911 calls Jim now finds himself dealing with. Faced with minor problems that they formerly would have dealt with themselves, the once completely self-sufficient Park rats are now turning more and more often to their resident State Trooper, simply because they now have the ability to do so.

    So my vote goes to cell phones for the impact they have had on the lives of Alaskans in the Bush, bringing them in much closer and more immediate touch with the rest of the world.

  7. I like the suggestions made by Megan and Arlene. I really like this book despite it being terribly sad. I loved Moses. I too would grow hungry reading of the food Kate helped serve. I guess I am going to vote for Megan’s suggestion as the small aeroplane is a huge and important feature of life in Alaska and often feature in this series.

  8. Love Kate and the stories, and have read them all… BUT, friends and all who read about her were terribly disappointed in the language. Won’t be reading anymore unless language cleaned up. Sorry

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