Atlin Where Everyone Knows Your Dog’s Name


Well-written book of life in small town Canada

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely love this book. It’s such a well-written book of life in small town Canada. The author’s childhood sounds just magical and yet it took a lot to be able to survive in such a remote area with none of the modern conveniences we take for granted today.

I grew up in some small towns and my parents live in a remote mountain community, and I love to go visit them. I could relate to some of what the author describes in this book.

Kelly L, NetGalley Reviewer

Easy to read and felt very authentic

A young boy growing up in northwest Canada in the 1960s and early 70s is magical. Think – Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion, sharing heartwarming tales about Canada.

Brad Smith paints a vivid picture of growing up in a breathtakingly beautiful, and somewhat isolated, area of British Columbia. The book, written through the eyes of a young boy, was easy to read and felt very authentic. Having grown up on a homestead in Alaska as a young girl, I relate to his experiences, adventures and character descriptions.

“Atlin” is an excellent book choice for young readers as well. Brad’s colorful descriptions of growing up “off the grid” draw a sharp contrast to the modern conveniences we enjoy today.

Nancy V, NetGalley Reviewer

A glimpse into a caring community

Atlin Where Everyone Knows your Dog’s Name is much more than just a story about a boy’s life in the Canadian north, it is a glimpse into the life and history of a caring community who worked together to accomplish unimaginable feats. It honors the hardworking, fun loving men and women of Atlin, B.C., especially the most amazing, independent, talented women, of whom his mother was the most accomplished of them all.

This book brings alive the childhood experiences of a young boy growing up in a small remote town in Northern BC. Intertwined with his mother’s writings, history, and humor, you find yourself reliving this life with him as his unique, vivid descriptions capture you and carry you along on his journey, immersing you in adventures incomprehensible to most.

You will feel the fear as a young boy creeps into his old house after dark with his imagination running wild, shivers in frigid waters as his childhood buddies tempt fate to find the best swimming holes, cling to handmade rafts, challenge each other to cross swift-moving creeks, and test thin ice.

You will learn about dog mushing, which included hanging on for dear life as well as being abandoned alone on the trail, “hooky bobbing,” and the trapping and hunting boys engaged in at a very young age, as well as the many hilarious escapades that they did and didn’t get away with. It is an absolute must read!

Terry Milos, author of North of Familiar

I’ve shared it with friends

“… life was a perpetual adventure,” writes author Bradford Smith, “an astonishing journey that most of us were not aware we were taking.”

He’s writing of his own life, one where he spent his growing years in Atlin, British Columbia. Isolated and difficult to reach, Atlin was both a wilderness community and his playground. His story is one part personal nostalgia for a far more simple life, at least in the eyes of his then young eyes, part history, and fully charming and intriguing. Living in Alaska myself, although I’ve never made it to Atlin, I’ve been to nearby Skagway and even Juneau, Alaska. I chuckled reading that Smith’s family moved from Juneau to Atlin because, well, the population then about 5,000 in Juneau made it just too crowded. I’ve taken that ferry to Haines that he mentions, too, and cannot imagine doing the trip in what was surely a far slower, less comfortable ferry of the times with all their personal belongings. Just as living in remote Alaska today, more than one trip was needed, too. I’m actually pretty sure some residents of remote Alaska and the Canadian wilds today would nod their heads sagely and say, “Yep, ain’t improved much.”

I won’t detail Smith’s adventures and misadventures as they are many and varied. His days were full of fun, like fishing and hunting, yes, but hard work, too, work that didn’t always feel like work because, well, they had fun doing it. Well, some of it. Even living in Alaska today where friends harvest moose and wild game to get them through our long winters, I know how hard just that task alone can be. Imagine hauling not just food animals you’ve trapped or killed for long distances without mechanical means, but wood, water, and doing it regularly, not just occasionally. One of the saving graces was perhaps the abundance of dogs, mostly huskies and Malamutes, in Smith’s life. Mushing isn’t as much a sport for some as a way of life, a way of getting food and supplies to the table, and Smith lived that life. It was a small, close-knit community and everyone helped each other, too. It was a hard life but one full of fun, amazing sights and sounds, adventure, and people who, yes, knew your dogs’ names.

More importantly, Smith saw it as a wonderful adventure, a time where he lived rather than just existed. “I have attempted to depict and explain a time, a place and a sense of community…. I chose to tell my story in a bright light, understanding every community has darkness…” In other words, he knows he’s being nostalgic. I mean, how else can you look back on the experience of having a father put you on his shoulders and then climb tall ladders or poles with you clinging to him without thinking twice about it.

Finally, a real plus to this book are the additions of excerpts by Smith’s mother, Diane Solie Smith. I wish I’d known her. Much of the history of Atlin available today may be through her efforts as a historian and writer of several books. Kudos to Bradford Smith for giving his mother her due and including her thoughts and insights. She died in 2003 and is buried with her last dog on a hill overlooking the town that once hosted her wild flower garden. The dog’s name was Willow.

Thank you #NetGalley and #FathomPublishing for introducing me to this wonderful book. I’ve shared it with friends including one who lives part time in, yes, Atlin.

June P, NetGalley Reviewer