Book Review: Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley

Cold Storage, Alaska is a quirky novel that alternates between humor, violence, and pathos. I liked it!

When the novel begins, Clive is being released from a California prison after serving seven years for dealing drugs. He swears to himself that he’s going to go kind of straight, but first he has to stop by his crime boss’s (Jake) warehouse, where he picks up money, evidence against Jake, and a big, frightening dog. Then he heads to Alaska.

Clive’s mother, Annabelle, and brother Miles are waiting for Clive back in Cold Storage (it’s the name of a town). Miles is an Army veteran and runs the town clinic and Annabelle is hoping to see her oldest son again before she succumbs to cancer.

The small town was once thriving due to the frozen fish industry but has fallen on hard times. It reminded me of the little town in the TV series Northern Exposure. And similar to Northern Exposure, the town is populated by eccentric characters, including a guy who wants to kayak to Washington to see the Dalai Lama and raise money to free Tibet; a successful native American jewelry maker who lives in Cold Storage to “study white people” for a book he’s writing; and Weasel, who has quite a green thumb when it comes to growing marijuana.

cold storage

Clive quickly carves out his place in the town, but trouble follows him. A state trooper is sniffing around, hoping to catch Clive doing something wrong. And then Jake shows up…

The novel explores many different themes and it’s hard to peg to one genre. The author says he likes slapstick comedy, and there is some of that. But there are also very serious topics like aging, death, relationship struggles, and family loyalty. The shift from humor to serious kept me a little off-balance, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I liked Cold Storage, Alaska because of its quirky, likable characters, small town flair, humor, and brotherly love. It’s part of a series and I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

How about you? What’s the last good quirky novel you read?

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley

  1. Sounds good. Had not heard of it but now it is on my list. I guess the last sort of quirky novel I read was Martin Marten by Brian Doyle. It was part animal story, coming of age (boy and animal), love story and small mountain town quirky people story so it might qualify. I really liked it. I read your recent recommendation of The Book of Lost Friends. Very good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great reminder of Northern Exposure – we loved that show so much! Made the book sound like a lot of fun – thanks for another great recommendation!

    I just finished “Doc” by Mary Doria Russell – a fictional account of the year that Doc Holliday spent in Fort Dodge, KS. It was so good I immediately picked up “Epitaph,” the follow-on story of what happened with Holliday and the Earps at the O.K. Corrall. Both books paint these men in very sympathetic terms, especially Doc Holliday. The accompanying women characters are great, too. Both fun historical novels – and I think quite quirky.

    Happy Autumn, everyone – the best season for readers!

    Liked by 1 person

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