“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.”
Leni’s parents are living a great love story – on the outside. Her father was a POW in Vietnam and her mother waited years for him to return. He did, but he was changed and had demons that they tried to chase away with alcohol, changing jobs or changing locations. In a last ditch effort to make her father happy, the family moves to Alaska when Leni is 13 after a friend from the war leaves her dad some land. They arrive in the beautiful summertime, but their plans to enjoy the Alaskan life are put aside when the locals tell them all they need to do to survive the winter, which will be there before they know it. Leni has one friend at school, Matthew, but her father does not like his father.
I have read a few books by Kristin Hannah and enjoyed them. I liked Night Road, but really enjoyed The Nightingale. When I saw she had written a book set in Alaska, I was quick to put it on my to-read list as I lived in Alaska for three years. It took a few months before The Great Alone became available from the library through Overdrive. The wait is even longer now.
Leni and Matthew’s relationship is complicated not just because Leni’s father doesn’t like Matthew’s father, but because Leni’s father sees conspiracies everywhere, especially as the darkness of winter sets in. It gets worse every year. Leni’s family barely makes it through the first winter and Leni starts seeing the truth of her parents’ relationship as their cabin lacks doors to hide behind. Control and abuse fill the house. Her mother won’t leave and Leni can’t leave her mother. When events draw their neighbors to help, the path is taken that will change their lives forever.
I was drawn into this book right away. I could see the places where the book took place, which I think helped. I do wonder if those who haven’t seen the beauty of Alaska will enjoy the book as much as someone who has experienced it firsthand. I was not expecting the ending, but am very glad the author drew the story out far enough to see what happens to Leni when she is finally free from her parents. I can see this book becoming a movie.