Local Author Mary Odden Introduces New Book: "Mostly Water"

From Oregon To Nelchina, Alaska – Essays & Stories By Mary Odden In Mary Odden's Mostly Water: Reflections Rural and North, es...

From Oregon To Nelchina, Alaska – Essays & Stories By Mary Odden

In Mary Odden's Mostly Water: Reflections Rural and North, essays form a linked memoir that explores the American outback from eastern Oregon horse trails to the arctic and subarctic river towns of Alaska. In these landscapes, human dwellers are entwined in histories as loopy as northern rivers. Odden invites the reader to a vivid patchwork of characters and seldom-seen places, with a soundtrack from fiddle dances and a menu “half potlatch and half potluck.” 

In Mostly Water, readers will hear dance music ring through little towns and watch as friends conspire to stoke the fires and fading memories of an old pioneer. The danger of giving birth takes a crooked path through a mystical elk hunt on its way to the miracle of holding a child. Casual meetings with passengers on an Alaska Marine Highway ferry open to intimacy with a Tlingit grandmother and the dignified depths of an ocean-going hobo. Bush town storefronts forsake their rivers to welcome the airplane. The falling of the Twin Towers on 9/11 silences the sky over a remote Alaska village. Short takes on a vivid personal cuisine divide the longer essays of Mostly Water. In these interludes, dead grandmothers mix it up over turkey gravy, and ripe berries are sweet and dangerous after Chernobyl’s radioactive winds blow around the top of the Earth. Events of the churning twenty-first century rise like the sea in these stories—but so do music and love and hope in the precious otherness of nature.

Mary Odden grew up in eastern Oregon and worked as a fire lookout and dispatcher. She followed wildfires north to spend most of the last forty years in Alaska: telling smokejumpers where to go, finding true love, digging gardens, playing dance music, listening to stories and exploring remarkable landscapes. She studied writing at the University of Montana and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She worked as a writing teacher and village teen counselor in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region and, for a few busy years, published and edited a small community newspaper — the Copper River Record, distributed in Alaska's Copper River Valley. She and husband Jim live in Nelchina.  

Odden’s essays and stories have appeared in the Georgia Review, Northwest Review, Nimrod, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Under Northern Lights, an anthology of contemporary Alaska art and writing. In 2015, she received a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award for her work on the essays gathered in Mostly Water, being published by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. She lives in Nelchina, Alaska.


  •  On June 2, 9 am Alaska time, KCHU's Shane Kimberlin will host a discussion of Mostly Water on the Coffeebreak Program.
  •  On June 3, 3:30 Alaska time, Red Hen Press Editor Kate Gale will host a Facebook Live Event on "Henhouse" for Odden's Mostly Water and Zachary Doss's Boy Oh Boy.
  •  On June 18, a Facebook Live Event from Writers Block in Anchorage will feature a "conversation" between Odden's "St Anne's Reel," from Mostly Water, and live tunes from the "Snowdrifters."
For more information and links to these events, visit maryodden.com
“Mary Odden’s writing is wise, witty, and frank. This western woman’s memoir in essays brims with love for family and the rural places Odden calls home. She’s a natural storyteller, and her voice makes her literary kin to the North’s spiritual grand dame, Margaret Murie.” 
— Heather Lende, Author of Find the Good


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