Cover Image: Soundings


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Member Reviews

As a young girl, I spent MANY hours imagining myself as a 'whale warrior's (like the sea shepherd's!). I picked this one up because I have always been drawn towards whales and the ocean, much like out protagonist. 

To be very clear, this one is about a lot more than whales. This book has a LOT going on. It is an environmentalist/anthropological/ parenting/adventure book. At first, the flashbacks felt kind of jerky and sudden. Honestly, it was hard for me to follow, BUT as the book progressed, I started to really enjoy reading the different prospective and going back and forth. 

I especially liked the flashbacks to her time in Alaska and the bits about Inupiaq culture! The fact that I cant really relate to the parenting pieces/am not in that head space did not deter me! Overall I enjoyed this story once I was able to get in to it, and would definitely recommend it more to middle aged adults than young adults (seems like a book my mom would love--in a good way!)
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Soundings by Doreen Cunningham

Today I’m featuring and reviewing a memoir that releases on 7/12!

In Soundings, author Doreen Cunningham weaves together her story of pregnancy and life with her young son, following a whale migration to Alaska, and scientific information about whales and the impacts of climate change. 

This was such a moving and heartfelt memoir 🥹 and I wasn’t sure at first how the weaving of science and memoir would work, but I loved it! The bits about whales and climate change were informative and interesting.

I also loved the connection between the author’s motherhood journey and motherhood of whales 💕

I highly recommend the audio (narrated by the author)!

Thank you @netgalley, @scribnerbooks, and for the #gifted copies!
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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Scribner for an advanced copy of this combination memoir/ nature writing/ and cultural study. 

Animals follow migratory paths to follow the food, to go to places of safety for mating and birthing, and some just do it by instinct. Humans travel to make a better life for themselves and their children, but also to find themselves, and to make sense of this crazy world. Both migrate to feel safe and safe with their decisions. Doreen Cunningham in her book Soundings Journeys in the Company of Whales: A Memoir writes about her life both roaming along with grey whales on the migratory path, with her young son, and about her life living among a Iñupiag family in Alaska, migrating her own path to happiness and acceptance.

We first meet Doreen and her son at her lowest point, living in a woman's refuge, not able to afford and or sell her apartment, another casualty of her divorce. Doreen decides, with a surprise loan and some research to follow the North wards migration of grey whales, taking her son along so that he can experience it, and show that if you try and plan anything can happen. Plus Doreen needs a mission, a goal to rise up out of her current situation. At the same time she thinks of the last great time that she felt happy and loved, and that was while living in a small Alaska town, among the indigenous people, who had given her love and a feeling of safety. Soon she sets out, with her son, on a two part adventure/ migration/ spirit quest.

The story is good, and told well though there is a lot of jumping around in the narration that might make it hard for some readers to follow along, or might make them want to give up entirely. They shouldn't as this book has a lot to say and much to teach. Once the reader locks into the writing the style the book becomes far more than a crazy, probably unsafe trip for mother and child. The reader learns about nature, travel, parenting, cultural studies, quite a bit in such a slim book. This is not an A to B to C book, it takes a little work, but really the small victories that the two win together really make the book worth reading. Cunningham is very honest about her mistakes, poor decisions, and her thoughts. However she does love her child, and at the end herself, and that is rare in a book.

A different kind of story about nature and parenting, which really do go together. Both have risks and their share of rewards, and are both worth fighting for. The book is also a cultural study for a dying way of life as shown by life in Alaska. Recommended for readers of Artic Dreams by Barry Lopez, Lab Girl by Hope Johnson and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer.
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This was different than my usual genre of books that I read. I don't usually read memoirs, but Soundings was intriguing and I'm glad that I read it.
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Soundings by Doreen Cunningham is heart wrenchingly personal and globally encompassing.   What a fantastic life journey to share.    I highly recommend reading it.
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A gorgeous book mapping the journey of a woman and her son as they follow whale migration. This was very well written and took you to the sea to experience the massive creatures with a good mix of education on global warming and the author’s personal stories. Poignant, riveting and beautiful.
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As a lover of nature memoirs and non-fiction AND a huge whale enthusiast I was very excited to read this book. I agree with other reviewers that the beginning lacked a little succinct story telling, but my oh my the last half of the book was absolutely outstanding. What an incredible experience! 

Thank you so much for a chance to read an early copy of this book.
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4.5 rounded up 
I’ve been on an arctic kick ever since I read Stockholm Sven so the ice is in my blood, as Doreen would say. I loved this story of a journalist who comes out of an ugly custody battle and decides to take her young son and track a migration of grey whales from Mexico to Alaska. Interspersed with this journey are stories from her time in a whaling community in Alaska seven years earlier. 

The first maybe 40% I thought the timeline was muddled and confusing, and that it felt like didn’t integrate the science into her story very smoothly. In a single chapter, she would talk about her current journey, her previous relationship, her childhood, Alaska 7yrs ago and three to four paragraphs of scientific info with end notes. Even though this first part felt clunky, I kept coming back because it really is a great story.
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I wasn't sure what to expect from this book - a parenting memoir, a travel story, a book about whales, a treatise on global warming? It ended up being a little bit of all of the above, with a love story gently layered in. I learned more about whales, Iñupiaq culture and whale hunting than I ever thought possible (and, the 8 year old wannabe marine biologist still inside me was delighted). 

The story is split between the author's time in Alaska living with an Iñupiaq family and learning about whale hunting and a trip she took with her two year old son to follow the grey whale migration up the west coast of the US. The timeline jumped around a lot in the first half of the book and although it wasn't hard to keep up, it felt abrupt and took you out of the core story. I think it could have been a much more straightforward narrative if some details were cut down a bit.

The last quarter or so of the book was my absolute favorite. Overall it's a beautiful read and well worth your time.
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