This book tells the story of Leni Allbright, a thirteen year old in the 1970’s who is brought to Alaska by her parents looking for a fresh start. Her father, Ernt, was a Vietnam POW dealing with some serious post traumatic issues. Leni’s mother, Cora, excuses away her husbands violent tendencies by reminiscing about how Ernt was before the war.
The threesome reach Alaska unprepared for life in the wilderness, with nothing more than a van full of useless junk, Leni’s polaroid camera, and the tenuous hope that Ernt will be better here. They end up in Kaneq, a tiny community of hardened people living off the grid. It is populated by rough but caring characters who help Leni and her parents adjust to life in Alaska and prepare for winter.
Over the years, Ernt and Cora go between beatings and promises to never do it again while their daughter falls in love with a local teenager. Leni keeps her relationship with Matthew secret, for her father wouldn’t allow her to have anything to do with a perceived enemy (and everyone is the enemy to Ernt). Then Leni ends up pregnant. Ernt’s anger erupts – at Leni instead Cora.
What happens sends Leni and Cora on the run. I won’t ruin the rest for you, because this book is worth reading and you should discover it for yourself.
‘The Great Alone’ is about love, the deeper kind of love that never really goes away. Love between a mother and child. Love between a man and a woman. Love of nature. When it runs that deep, it can bring people together but can also tear them apart.
Though Leni and Cora don’t know it, they are as strong and agile as any who can survive a winter in the far north. Their decisions are often clouded by love, but their lives are defined by how they respond to the hardships thrown their way by winter, by people, and by one sheriff who tricks one of the women into confessing a terrible crime.
It is love in the face of darkness and adversity that is interwoven into every sentence of this novel. It’s a page turner. I highly recommend this one.