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January 23, 2001

Books by W. Keith Miller

Chasing Down the Dawn
Jewel Kilcher
New York: Harper Collins, 2000, $24.95

The reader, to understand Jewel’s Chasing Down the Dawn, has no choice but to read "A note from Jewel." Without starting at this beginning point, a full understanding of the scope and purpose of the novel may escape any notion that the reader has of Jewel’s writing. Jewel is forthright when it comes to explaining how the writings were put together, and more importantly, why they were written. If only politicians and evangelists would be so honest and open with their autobiographies in style as Jewel does, we would know so much more about them. Jewel accomplishes what she sets out to do in this book - to let people know her a little better by giving them segments of her life that can be related to.

It is interesting to see someone as talented as Jewel put together a collection of writings such as Chasing Down the Dawn. The stories seem to compare Alaskan home with every other place the writer/musician/artist has been. Jewel does it by using a combination of past and present at the same time giving a glimpse of where we all have been at one time or another. Jewel is very detailed, and very personal, throughout the book. In this way, she talks to the reader as if she was sitting next to you telling you her thoughts and secrets as a friend. Things that may not seem important at first come out as supportive of something said later. For example, early on, Jewel describes how home has become wherever she may be - the motel, bus, plane. She makes it this way. Soon afterwards, she relates to us that none of these can ever be home. It is not, however, by any measure a sad telling. Chasing Down the Dawn is an uplifting writing that at some point in Jewel’s life can be added to. While we do not want one too soon, it will be interesting to see what her next project would be. It is not self-centered. Jewel’s family, friends and associates, and even fans come across in this book; maybe not in the most positive way - with good reason for some of them - but as an honest description of the time. Chasing Down the Dawn is neither an improvement nor a retreat from Jewel’s earlier book, A Night Without Armor. It is a continuation of Jewel’s expertise in capturing a life as a reflection of others in her writing, music and art.

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(W. Keith Miller is a freelance book reviewer. Comments are welcomed and may be sent to wilburn_m@yahoo.com.)


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