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The Cruelest Miles  By  cover art

The Cruelest Miles

By: Gay Salisbury,Laney Salisbury
Narrated by: Barrett Whitener
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Publisher's Summary

The year is 1925. It is sixty degrees below zero. The wind sweeps tons of snow over the deep-frozen Alaskan landscape. The nearest railhead is seven hundred miles away. Airplanes cannot fly. The way to Nome is blocked by a treacherous frozen sound, an icebound port, and mountains to the west. But there is a diphtheria epidemic in Nome. The children need serum from the outside world if they are to survive. Their only hope is a few chosen Eskimo drivers and their teams of dogs, who must make a relay race across the wilderness if the serum is to get to Nome in time. The heroism and stamina of the men and their dogs can only be called legendary. Now, their story can be told.
©2003 Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury (P)2003 Books On Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This is an elegantly written book, inspiring tremendous respect for the hardy mushers and their canine partners." (Publishers Weekly)
"The Salisburys have written an amazing story of endurance and courage." (Booklist)
"Margot Dionne delivers this mind-numbing experience in a calm voice, allowing the words to convey the terror and agony that characterized the journey." (AudioFile)

What listeners say about The Cruelest Miles

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

The Cruelest Miles Makes Exciting Reading

Fans of adventure stories will love this book. Certainly the rescue of Nome, Alaska from a 1925 diptheria epidemic is an exciting story. Gay and Laney Salisbury's book also includes a lot of Alaskan history and information about Eskimo culture. Their careful research and attention to detail make their stories about the dog drivers and especially the sled dogs positively riveting.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Chilling!

This is one of the best listens in my 3+ years of audio-book listening. It is extremely well-read, has wonderful flow, and includes lots and lots of relative facts and detail which serve to enlighten the tale and not bog it down. The events and people are fascinating and inspiring, and the history is amazing -- sometimes hard to believe that it all actually occurred in the early 20th century, at a time when most of the country (lower 48) enjoyed modern luxuries and forms of transportation.

I found this book so fascinating, that I purchased the written volume also, and my young son and I read along/listened to the entire thing for a history lesson. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Alaska, sled dogs, or simply a fascinating event in American history.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Very Good Book

This one is well worth the listen. It was a fascinating story and was told in a well formatted way that allowed the listener to follow all the supporting stories without becoming lost in minutia that happens so often with historical accounts. The performance by Barrett Whitener was, as usual, outstanding! He made an interesting story even better through the narration. I especially liked the way the author provided the history of the native peoples and how they survive in such an inhospitable place. However, his description of the dogs and the side stories about them and their behavior made this book one of my favorites and will be listened to again, several times I'm sure. If you like little known history and if you like dogs I can't imagine that you will not like this book!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Ponderous, but ultimately interesting

What did you like best about The Cruelest Miles? What did you like least?

The book is of course about a journey made by dog sled to bring vaccines to Nome Alaska to save the locals from a diphtheria epidemic. You would certainly expect digressions of the history of dog sledding, or on some local culture, etc. What I did not bargain for was the author pretty much giving the history of the peoples of Alaska from the time that the first human set foot there to the time of the Nome epidemic all at once, so I had back story for maybe 2 hours straight. It isn't that that information wasn't interesting, but I thought I was reading a book about this epidemic and for hours, that is for days of listening, the plot did not advance at all. I think that might have done me in if I was actually reading and not just listening.
I did finish though. I was so worried about the fates of the two main sled dogs - Togo and Balto. I am sensitive about animals. I needn't have worried, since they both lived to be old dogs. I mention that not as a spoiler but to reassure people sensitive to animal cruelty that they can handle the book. I suppose it is somewhat silly to worry about the dogs anyway since the book is set in the 1920's so the longest living dog would have been long, long dead by now. At the end they tell you how a lot of the humans ended up as well. It amazed me really that the majority of these people, despite living these hard lives in Alaska lived to be very old. Of course I felt all nostalgic reading it and it seemed to me that our modern world is a much duller place. On the other hand, people aren't dropping like flies from diphtheria.
I do not think I have the ability to even understand minus 60 degrees. It amazes me that anyone can deal with that sort of thing. I just have trouble believing that people have the abilities they would need to survive. For example, they mentioned how if you took off your glove within 30 seconds your hand would freeze (at some temp or other that they were dog sledding in). The quick decisions and reactions required to survive in those conditions just don't strike me as skills possessed by the majority of people. At least not the people I know. Of course I don’t know anyone living in rural Alaska.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

This book was great.

Facinating. Gripping. Emotional. Couragous. This book was one of the best I've ever heard. The author combines the main tail with a collection of tangental stories that are told at just the right time and provide a perfect backdrop for the overall story. I highly recommend this book.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Shirley

beautifully narrated and written. The history about the Alaskan natives and the wonderful dogs was awe-inspiring. I never knew of such deep commitment from a group of people and their dogs to exist. Touching, tear jearking, and awesome true story preserved for us. Now this wuld have been a history lesson worth sitting in class and taking notes! I enjoyed every second of this history rich and interesting book. A must read!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling true story

Facinating true account of the Nome serum dog run. The author makes history come alive, particularly the history of the sled dogs and their mushers. The information on the breeding and training of these working dogs was detailed and very interesting, as was the information on the politics and people behind the serum drive. Great compelling listen

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent!!

It's seldom I come across a modern book that both entertains as well as educates me. This work did both. I learned so much about Alaska, their people, their way of life. I felt transported into their world. I learned not only about diptheria but also felt the agony and despair that those children experienced. My spirit was exulted by the human drama of common man transformed into heroes by a love of their fellow men. And more than anything, I gain a new appreciation and love for the amazing dogs. Simply put --- excellent!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

a cold book

I liked thenarrator. His grizzled low voice lent itself well to the mushers in the story.
But I was dissapointed with the story not because of the subject matter but because of the anticlamax. For an author who is able to take the reader onto the dog sled itself, he does a terrible job of describing the illness (just another case of excuciating bleeding membrane in the throat) and the sense of urgency, and I sometimes had trouble following where the dogs were and how much back-up serum remained. There were elements of the story (like the air rescue attempt) that I believe took away from the narrative. And the epilogue just got more and more depressing! Don't listen to it!
This book may have come first, but I think that society is now saturated with TV dramas that attempt similar plot lines.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

It shows the true good in man and dog

Having worked in the field with dogs for over 20 years. Deployed to Ground Zero, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and countless smaller missions by FEMA as a K9 Search Specialist. I have not come across a better book that touches on the great work that can be done when a working dog and handler develop a partnership. It also reminds us of how humble truly good people are and how they and their dogs are willing to risk their lives to help others, just because they want to help.
Tony Z

1 person found this helpful