Brian Keenan’s fascination with Alaska began when he was a small boy choosing his first library book in school: Jack London’s wondrous The Call of the Wild. And Alaska’s mesmeric wilderness has permeated Keenan’s life ever since. A short visit to Fairbanks several years ago was enough to seal his connection with the place, and he resolved to return. He eventually did so with a head full of questions about its inspiring landscape and a heart informed with his own love of the desolate places of the world. In a journey that takes him through four geographical quarters from snowmelt in May to snowfall in September, he discovers a land as fantastical as a fairy tale but whose vastness has a very peculiar type of allure. From dog-mushing on a frozen lake beneath the colors of the aurora borealis to camping in a two-dollar tent in the tundra of the Arctic Circle, from skinning hides with an aging shaman and his wife to boating in the stormy Bering Sea, and along frozen inlets to a remote Eskimo fishing camp, Keenan seeks out the ultimate wilderness experience and connects with a spectrum of wildlife, including his own “spirit bear,” all of them roamers in “The Big Lonely.” En route, he encounters hard-core survivalists who know what struggle and endurance mean from their daily battle for existence. And finally, he discovers that true wilderness is as much a state of mind as it is a place and that ultimately, to make Alaska home, one must surrender to the land.