Jimmy Bluefeather

Jimmy Bluefeather

by Kim Heacox


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Old Keb Wisting is somewhere around ninety-five years old (he lost count awhile ago) and in constant pain and thinks he wants to die. He also thinks he thinks too much. Part Norwegian and part Tlingit Native ('with some Filipino and Portuguese thrown in'), he's the last living canoe carver in the village of Jinkaat, in Southeast Alaska.

When his grandson, James, a promising basketball player, ruins his leg in a logging accident and tells his grandpa that he has nothing left to live for, Old Keb comes alive and finishes his last canoe, with help from his grandson. Together (with a few friends and a crazy but likeable dog named Steve) they embark on a great canoe journey. Suddenly all of Old Keb's senses come into play, so clever and wise in how he reads the currents, tides and storms. Nobody can find him. He and the others paddle deep into wild Alaska, but mostly into the human heart, in a story of adventure, love, and reconciliation. With its rogue's gallery of colorful, endearing, small-town characters, this book stands as a wonderful blend of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and John Nichols's The Milagro Beanfield War , with dashes of John Steinbeck thrown in.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943328710
Publisher: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 261,125
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Kim Heacox is the award-winning author of several books including the acclaimed John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire and the novel Caribou Crossing. His feature articles have appeared in Audubon , Travel & Leisure , Wilderness , Islands , Orion , and National Geographic Traveler. His editorials, written for the Los Angeles Times , have appeared in many major newspapers across the United States. When not playing the guitar, doing simple carpentry, or writing another novel, he's sea kayaking with his wife, Melanie or watching a winter wren on the woodpile.

Read an Excerpt

The weight of air

USED TO BE it was hard to live and easy to die. Not anymore.

Nowadays it was the other way around. Old Keb shook his head as he shuffled down the forest trail, thinking that he thought too much.

'Oyye . . .' he muttered, his voice a moan from afar.

He prodded the rain-soaked earth with his alder walking cane. For a moment his own weathered hand caught his attention—the way his bones fitted to the wood, the wilderness between his fingers, the space where Bessie's hand used to be.

Wet ferns brushed his pants in a familiar way. He turned his head to get his bearings, as only his one eye worked. The other was about as useful as a marble and not so pretty to look at. It had quit working long ago and sat there hitching a ride in his wrinkled face. The doctors had offered to patch it or plug it or toss it out the last time Old Keb was in Seattle, but he said no.

Someday it might start working again and he didn't want to do all his seeing out of one side of his head. He was a man, for God's sake, not a halibut.

A wind corkscrewed through the tall hemlocks. Old Keb stopped to listen but had problems here too. He could stand next to a hot chain saw and think it was an eggbeater. All his ears did now was collect dirt and wax and grow crooked hairs of such girth and length as to make people think they were the only vigorous parts of his anatomy. He always fell asleep with his glasses on, halfway down his nose. He said he could see his dreams better that way, the dreams of bears when he remembered—when his bones remembered—waking up in the winter of his life. Nobody knew how old he was. Not even Old Keb. He might have known once but couldn't remember. Somewhere around ninety-five was his guess, a guess he didn't share with any of his children, grandchildren, great grand-children, great-great grandchildren, or the legions of cousins, nephews, nieces, friends, and doctors, who figured he was close to one hundred and were on a holy crusade to keep him alive.

All his old friends were dead, the ones he'd grown up with and made stories with. He'd outlived them all. He'd outlived himself.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is the best of Alaska – its wilderness and its people, de-glamorized and yet brimful of beauty – a convergence of ocean, land, and spirit as only Kim Heacox can tell it, with wisdom, humor, and grace. A welcome new novel of relationships, forgiveness, and re-inventing oneself." –Deb Vanasse, author of COLD SPELL and UNDER ALASKA'S MIDNIGHT SUN


"This is the best of Alaska – its wilderness and its people, de-glamorized and yet brimful of beauty – a convergence of ocean, land, and spirit as only Kim Heacox can tell it, with wisdom, humor, and grace. A welcome new novel of relationships, forgiveness, and re-inventing oneself." –Deb Vanasse, author of COLD SPELL and UNDER ALASKA'S MIDNIGHT SUN

Customer Reviews

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Jimmy Bluefeather 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
DoranneLongPTMS More than 1 year ago
One of the best novels I have ever read! Kim Heacox captures many of the cultural layers of Alaska, as he blends old ways with the new.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Old Keb Wisting – who is part Norwegian, part Tlingit - and his grandson James, who live in the small community of Jinkaat, Alaska. As the eldest man in his family, and in the entire village, Keb is an old canoe carver who represents the old ways, the ways that are quickly disappearing. When James’ leg is crushed in a logging incident and his future dreams of NBA stardom are ruined, James suddenly sees his future as a question mark. But Old Keb is not content to let James brood about his future. He sets about carving his final canoe and enlists the help of not only James, but the entire community, as they all pitch in and help him finish the canoe. Once it’s done, Keb takes his grandson and a few others on a canoe journey to try and reconnect with the old ways and “get back to where he once belonged.” James’ love for his grandfather is very heartfelt and tender and as he helps his grandfather reconnect with his roots, he ends up transformed as well, connecting with his Tlingit roots and truly becoming the “Jimmy Bluefeather” of the title. I liked it because both the characters and the setting come alive in this book. I felt like I was there, that I knew all the characters, like Little Mac, Kid Hugh, Kevin, even Steve, the dog and I cared what happened to them. It made me fall in love with small town Alaska, “the last best place.” A great and worthwhile read. I highly recommend it!