Whiteout by Jessica Goodfellow – Book Review

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Book Review: Whiteout by Jessica Goodfellow

In 1967, the Wilcox Expedition set out to climb Denali. During their mountain journey, a wild 10-day storm with winds up to 300 MPH engulfed the twelve climbers on the highest peak in North America. Tragically, only 5 of the 12 climbers survived the unexpected ordeal. One of the climbers lost on the mountain was Steve Taylor (August 22, 1944 – July 1967), the 22-year-old uncle of Jessica Goodfellow.

Whiteout by Jessica Goodfellow
Whiteout by Jessica Goodfellow

Taylor’s final moments on the mountain will never be known or understood – what makes it worse is that his body has never been recovered. He is a 22-year-old forever lost on the mountain. Despite the fact that Goodfellow was only a toddler when this tragedy occurred, it obviously left traumatizing scars and created generational turmoil that still haunts her and her family. Whiteout by Jessica Goodfellow is a collection of poetry that details her and her family’s mourning over the loss of their beloved family member.

In Whiteout, Goodfellow explores her emotions and feelings of having lost a family member to the power of Mother Nature. Throughout her poetic manuscript, Goodfellow dives into the topics of loss, nature, and more. Whiteout is a deeply moving book that will strike home with anyone who has ever lost someone in the mountains.

Whiteout is not the typical type of book that we review on MountainJourney.com, but we made an exception for Whiteout by Jessica Goodfellow. As mountain enthusiasts, we have dedicated our lives to working, living, and playing in the mountains. No matter what, the mountains are always bigger, stronger, and more powerful than we are. When we choose to climb big peaks, explore remote ranges, or ski steep couloirs we must accept certain risks to both ourselves and the people that we could ultimately leave behind.

“What we do not know about a missing loved one becomes all that we know”. – T.S. Eliot

Like many mountain enthusiasts, we have lost friends, acquaintances, and heroes in mountain accidents. System failures, avalanches, falls, and disappearances happen in the mountain playgrounds of the world. It’s always tragic and never expected.

Dealing with this sort of loss will change your perspective on life, and sadly it is something you must deal with. Take a minute to think how much more difficult this situation would be if the person was never found? It’s an unimaginably hard situation that we hope you never have to face.

For anyone who has ever lost someone in the mountains, Whiteout is a book that you need to read. While it focuses on the loss of Goodfellow’s uncle, it also explores the way we mourn for the people who we have lost. Even if you can’t relate to Goodfellow’s exact situation, this book will still hit home. Every reader will react differently to each poem. Some that we read multiple times included Morphology, Uncalcuable, 22, and Nine Views On Denali. Which one’s speak to you? Goodfellow does an excellent job of expressing the way she feels about her situation. Her poems will certainly move you too.

Goodfellow has written several books that you can learn more about on Amazon.com. The University Of Alaska Press published Whiteout in 2017. Goodfellow completed her research of Whiteout as a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve. Learn more about Jessica Goodfellow at JessicaGoodfellow.com.

For more reading on the tragic 1967 Wilcox expedition, read Denali’s Howl by Andy Hall.

Disclaimer: Jessica Goodfellow sent us a copy of Whiteout to review. 


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