Melinda Moustakis

Reviews for Homestead

“Spare and exquisite, tough and lovely. The sentences build on themselves, becoming expansive and staggering in their sweep…In a gulp of cherry wine, a bonfire and a birth, Moustakis finds magnificence in the smallness…The language of homesteading is the language of argument, of making a case for oneself. Marie and Lawrence lay out the evidence. They point to the reasons. They insist.”
The New York Times Book Review

Homestead is a beautiful novel, quiet as a snowfall, warm as a glowing wood stove. It’s also a profound look at how we navigate one another, and what it means to reveal ourselves to the ones we care about…Admirers of Marilynne Robinson and Alice Munro are bound to appreciate.”

“Moustakis’ clear prose runs like a river through the lives of an ex-soldier and his bride who homestead 150 acres of Alaskan wilderness in the 1950s. Moustakis’ storytelling is both tranquil and turbulent, as she immerses the reader in the breathtaking landscape and the couple’s struggle.”
Christian Science Monitor

“The natural world is ever-present in this work, and most of the shatteringly beautiful writing has at its center a mountain range, a body of water, an animal or the snow…One of the novel’s abiding concerns is the strength of desire, the power of great ambition — for legacy, for property — and the fallout when those desires and ambitions cannot be met…Radiantly beautiful.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Luminous and fierce…Breathtaking…Homestead explore[s] how two people learn their way through a shared landscape and story while also interrogating the very construction of history, not only in a marriage, but in the long shadow of an American past cast always upon the present—what the very best historical fiction can do.”
Chicago Review of Books

“Absolutely remarkable…The writing is sublime, and the reader is instantly transported to this dangerous land. But the human struggles are where this book really shines, as Marie and Lawrence battle loneliness, numbing cold, loss, and the one big lie that threatens to destroy everything.”
Historical Novel Society

“Moustakis shines in her debut…The wondrous descriptions of the back-breaking labor involved in clearing and farming the land, and of the region’s vast beauty, will make readers feel like they’re there. This evocative, well-drawn account of Alaska’s American settlers is so convincing it ought to come with a pair of mittens.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)


North to Alaska

NorthWest Book Lovers

The two main characters of the book, Lawrence and Marie, are based on my grandparents. Some years ago I asked my grandmother if she would allow me to interview her while we walked around the property she homesteaded with my grandfather in Point MacKenzie, Alaska. She told me how they met in Anchorage and very quickly got married and then became homesteaders. They spent their first winter as newlyweds living on an old school bus, a 1945 International Harvester, waiting for winter to pass so they could build a cabin. That cabin still stands.


From Childhood Poems to Literary Alaska

Western Michigan University News

I had to let the fiction take over the family story or mythology and let these characters shape themselves…One of my goals in writing about Alaska is demythologizing the notion of it being ‘The Last Frontier’ and a pristine wilderness when Alaska Natives have lived there for thousands of years and to subvert the ‘lone man in the wilderness’ trope.


First Lines


A kiss in the dark, that’s what this first line is – Wait. What just happened? Who? – a confusing first kiss. We all would like to think that with one line, one brush, we could make a reader fall madly in love, and there are writers that illicit such a response with the appropriately gorgeous. I read a piece where a writer described her stories as beasts gnawing off the lovely clothes she had carefully dressed them in. I, too, find the stories that I will to be beautiful and charming end up, despite my efforts, strange creatures running for the woods.


Character and Landscape


I often ask myself, What is the sound of a place? What does Alaska sound like to me—in dialogue, on the page, in those still moments? A character has a voice; a landscape can have a voice. These things are all intimately connected, and when I find each element difficult to parse out, I know I’m getting something right.


The New Northern Gothic

NorthWest Booklovers

If there was one image to describe this book, it would be a messy tangle of fishing line and hooks—blood lines and family ties. 


Coal, Diamonds, and How to Stretch a Story

The Kenyon Review

Another influence has been the stories I grew up hearing about Alaska and hunting and fishing and my grandparents’ homestead. Often there is this small diamond of truth I know I want to include in a story and I have to write the coal, wrap the whole story around this diamond in order to make it glimmer.


The Darker Side of Alaska

Alaska Dispatch

“It always helps to be away from a place, to have distance when you’re writing, because it helps you focus on the details,” Moustakis said. “Alaska’s a gorgeous state. But I like to write about that, juxtaposed with the darker undercurrents — some sense of the truth that’s going on behind all that wonder.”
And those undercurrents are plenty dark. The setpieces and catalysts for events are uniquely Alaskan — a fishhook to the eye, a plane crash in the wilderness — and the book is cut through with Alaska like a well-marbled piece of meat.


Fishing Stories

Anchorage Daily News

On a sunny July day she stood on the bow of a boat in the middle of the Kenai River, cocked her pink rod and sent a flesh-colored fly zipping over the glacial gray water.
“Coming up here to fish is how I got through so much school,” said Moustakis.


Fishing Lines and Tension

49 Writers Blog

I think my writing really came together when I started to marry the idea of fishing or hunting with family relationships. What I mean is, the structure of a fishing story became the vessel that allowed me to write about relationships. If you think about it, when you’re fishing, you have some idea that a fish could bite at any moment, you anticipate it, but, you have no idea exactly what will happen. The fish might bite. You might get skunked and never have a bite. You might hook into a little dolly and throw it back. You might be fishing for rainbows and hook into a monster king and have a story you’ll tell for the rest of your life.


There Will Be Moose

Tusculum Review

There are so many things I want to write next and I have finally picked one or two to focus on. All I can promise is that there will be moose.


The New Old Library

Tin House

Writing is a type of rebellion for me, a dare, a way to break the rules. I needed these women authors writing about women in the wilderness, these trailblazers. I read Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness and so many possibilities opened up in terms of setting and point of view. And “tell him you don’t speak chocolate” is an appropriate line for many occasions. The wilderness in Proulx’s collection of Wyoming stories is brutal and cruel to everyone–nature doesn’t make any concessions for gender and women are given equal footing in this landscape and knocked down with the same force.


The O.Henry Prize Stories

Author Spotlight

I know something worthwhile is happening on the page when a story surprises me as I’m writing it. I knew from the beginning that “They Find the Drowned” would include a section about a moose drowning based on a story my uncle, Sonny, told me on the river—he tells fantastic stories. But I never imagined that, by the end, I’d have a story with many other animals, scientific research, multiple drownings, and a modular structure that wasn’t a complete disaster. It would just be about disaster, which I realized when I decided on the title, and this happened very late in the process.











































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