Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
This is a powerful read about the strength of a young girl when every force in her world is working against her. No part of Leni’s life has been made easy for her. She doesn’t remember the so called “happy” years her family spent together before her father went off to war; by the time she was old enough to form memories, he was gone. When he returns, he has changed – a dangerous part of his personality has been revealed.
They are in no way ready for life in Alaska. The brutal weather and carnivorous animals push back against them any time they begin to make progress. But the town takes them in. This community of survivors, to which the Allbrights’ have no true claim, accepts them in a way that shows the true goodness inherent in their hearts. Without this town, none of the Allbrights would have survived in the first place.
But despite the village’s best efforts, the biggest danger to Leni is in her own house. This is a story of perseverance in spite of all of that and more. It’s also a powerful story of kindness. There are few things I love more than stories of people who are kind without reason.
Hannah swept me away with this captivating story. I could not pull my nose out of this book. And yes, it made me cry, though not where I expected. This book is a gem. Go ahead and let yourself get lost in it.
Trigger warning: domestic violence, PTSD.
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