In Stephanie Joyce Cole’s COMPASS
NORTH, a desperately unhappy woman is thrust into a new life and a new
identity in a small town in Alaska when she is presumed dead in a freak
accident. She discovers that it takes more than a change of venue to reinvent a
North is a must read book for today's generation of women (and men), defining
their role in a complex and fast changing world.” – Grady, Goodreads.
2013 (digital) April 1st, 2014 (print)
Pages: 224 pages
Reeling from the
shock of a suddenly shattered marriage, Meredith flees as far from her home in
Florida as she can get without a passport: to Alaska. After a freak accident
leaves her presumed dead, she stumbles into a new identity and a new life in a
quirky small town. Her friendship with a fiery and temperamental artist and her
growing worry for her elderly, cranky landlady pull at the fabric of her
carefully guarded secret. When a romance with a local fisherman unexpectedly
blossoms, Meredith struggles to find a way to meld her past and present so that
she can move into the future she craves. But someone is looking for her,
someone who will threaten Meredith’s dream of a reinvented life.
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This morning, when Meredith had woken, bleary-eyed and her
throat dry, she buried her head in the soft pillow. Going home. She probed the
thought gently, thinking about opening the townhouse door, sensing the silent
whispers. Was it even home anymore?
way to the Fairbanks airport, someone yelped, “Look, a bear!”
it was the last day of the tour, the bus still shuddered to a stop when anyone
shouted out a sighting. Meredith had rushed with everyone else to the left side
of the bus to squint at the distant-moving speck on the rain-drenched green
expanse in Denali National Park, all the time thinking, Will he be at the
airport? No, of course not. I didn’t even
tell him my flight information. But he could ask Ellen. But no, he won’t be
there. Unless he wants to talk about the divorce right away...
at those fall colors!”
At a scenic
viewpoint, they all huddled together against the whistling wind and stared at
the rolling tundra outside of Fairbanks, with its late summer greens, scarlets,
and browns pocketed by hundreds of tiny lakes shining a deep navy blue in the
weak afternoon sunlight. The stiff breeze carried the scent of trampled
evergreens, wet earth, and the suggestion of still, boggy water. The bite of
the wind made her eyes water and blurred her vision. She murmured some words of
admiration, but her thoughts were far away. What
will I do next? How could Michael do this to me after fifteen years?
had found her fellow travelers to be a contented and congenial group,
solicitous and moderately interested in their only single, and rather
withdrawn, slightly nervous fellow traveler. They must have found her odd, she
realized, her slender frame swaddled in layers of Florida cotton, while they
had prepared for this trip for months, fortifying themselves in down parkas and
carrying brightly colored backpacks. She was at least two decades younger than
most of them. But they had been kind to her, and after the first few days they
realized she preferred to be left alone.
It was one
of the last tours of the season, and though the sun often offered a bit of
pleasant warmth midday, the nights drew in sharp and bitter. On the road to
Fairbanks, they had driven through vistas splashed with streaks of red and gold
stretching to a far horizon, and could see a fine new layer of snow had already
dusted the lower slopes of distant, craggy peaks. The brief Alaska autumn had
arrived, and winter already announced its intentions. But Meredith might as
well have been traveling in the vast expanse of some flat, monotonous desert,
for all the magnificence of the country registered with her.
And now, as
she exited the airport and stepped onto the curb, her travel bag held tight
under her arm, her lungs breathing in the cool, crisp air, the bus looming
ahead of her, the sound of a plane deafeningly roaring, coming closer…
would wonder if she had seen the plane crash into the waiting bus. She didn’t
think so. All she remembered was the noise, the terrible boom, then the fiery
mass where the bus should have been.
Screams erupted then, and voices wailing.
Meredith couldn’t absorb it at first, that the bus heading back to
Anchorage—the bus she should be on—had just exploded at the far end of the
airport parking lot.
She dropped hard onto the concrete curb in terror, sprawled
into a sitting position with her legs awkwardly splayed in front of her. She
watched in confusion as people streamed out of the terminal. The crowd pushed a
few feet ahead, shouting and pointing and holding their hands to faces that
wore masks of shock and horror, but the heat and flames kept them at a
Oh my God, that’s our bus, everyone is on board, everyone is
Jonas and Angela were right behind me. And
Carrie and John were across the aisle...
Oh my God. I should be on that bus.
I should be dead.
But I’m not.
Joyce Cole lived for decades in Alaska. She and her husband recently relocated
to Seattle, where they reside with a predatory but lovable Manx cat named
Bruno. Stephanie has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska,
Anchorage. When she's not writing, she's hiking, creating ceramics, practicing
yoga, traveling, volunteering and discovering new ways to have fun--and oh yes,
reading, reading, reading.