Some kids get an allowance, but I used to earn a nickel for every deer I spotted and a dollar for every bald eagle. I only earned a penny for each white horse, though, because they were easier to find.
The summers of my youth were spent in a family cabin on a lake in north-western Wisconsin. It was surrounded by wildlife and my sharp eyes garnished me some extra cash from time to time. My aunt loved to create games for we kids and she taught us early on to be watchful of nature.
Our days were spent swimming and boating and playing volleyball and croquet and often ended with a sunset drive to scout for animals. We’d pile into the car and take turns scanning the horizon with a pair of binoculars. We always saw cows (which earned us no money whatsoever because, you know, they’re cows), but more times than not we’d see deer out for their evening meal. We’d occasionally add wild turkeys or a lone osprey to our list, and liked to scare each other into believing that there was a bear lurking around every corner. Nightfall marked the appearance of loons on the lake, and we’d fall asleep to the haunting melodies of them calling for their mates.
Ah, memories… they sure bring on a dose of nostalgia.
Kache’s memories, in All the Winters After, include growing up in the Alaskan wilderness. The family’s homestead, miles from the nearest town, was hand-built and stood proudly amongst the moose, bear, and eagles that called the surrounding woods home. For Kache, the homestead represented family and love until the fateful day his parents and brother were killed in a plane crash and Kache left Alaska behind him for good.
Now, 20 years later, Kache has returned to visit his aging grandmother. Dismayed to find out that his aunt neglected to maintain, or even set foot in the beloved homestead since the tragedy, Kache expects it to be lying in ruins.
Bracing himself for the worst, Kache is shocked when he arrives. Not only is the homestead still standing, but the windows glow with light and smoke billows from the chimney. And the inside is even more puzzling: everything—every pot, dish, book, magazine—is exactly as it was left two decades before.
Expecting to see ghosts, Kache instead finds Nadia, a young, terrified Russian woman, hiding under a bed. A hermit of sorts, Nadia has been squatting at the homestead for the past ten years. Kache’s first impulse is to kick her out, but as the days pass, a fragile friendship grows between them.
Their love sprouts with the spring plants, and Kache and Nadia spend the long days of summer basking in the happiness they’ve created for one another. But as winter approaches, and reality sets in, they start to question the enduring power of isolated love. Kache is content staying at the homestead but is haunted by the events of the past. Nadia, a decade-long recluse, is itching to spread her wings but is remaining in hiding for a reason.
As they brace for the onslaught of the dark, Alaskan winter, Kache and Nadia must evaluate the extent to which they can—or will—save each other. In the end, is love ever enough?
Seré Prince Halverson is the international bestselling author of The Underside of Joy. All the Winters After is her second novel. Sourcebooks, 2016.