The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Alaska “is like no other, it is beauty, and horror, savior and destroyer.  Here, where survival is a choice that must be made over and over.  In the wildest place in America on the edge of civilization where water in all its forms can kill you, you learn who you are.  Not who you dream of being, not who you imagined you are, not who you were raised to be.  All of that will be torn away in the months of icy darkness when frost on the windows blurs your view and the world gets very small and you stumble into the truth of your existence. You learn what you will do to survive.”

the great alone

When Lenny’s father, Ernt, returns from being a POW in Vietnam, he is a changed man.  Prone to violent nightmares and easily agitated, he clearly suffers from PTSD, which he often treats by self medicating with alcohol, as there was no real understanding of PTSD at this time.  After losing yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision to move the family to Alaska, to live off the grid in the homestead that Ernt inherited from a fellow solider he befriended while in Vietnam.  He promises that everything will be different (for the better) in Alaska.  Cora, Ernt’s wife, and Lenny agree because they are desperate to get the pre-war Ernt back.

At first, it seems that Alaksa has answered their prayers.  Lenny, at thirteen years old, was always socially awkward–but in Alaska she really starts to come into her own.  Cora and Ernt’s relationship seems to be getting back on track, despite the occassional spat.  Although Ernt continues to drink and his choice of friends (e.g. the doomsday prepper father of Ernt’s late friend) is questionable, Ernt’s bad temper and moods are manageable.

Until the start of winter.  As the days grow shorter and shorter, darkness begins to settle not only over the land, but in the heart and soul of Ernt.  As the nights grow longer and longer, Ernt’s jealously of Cora’s friendship with a rich man from town, paranoia about the coming “end of days”, and his mental instablilty grows until he is no longer able to contain it.  “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.”

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Tourists flock to Alaska for its breathtaking views, but the people who call it home know that living in Alaska is like walking on a razor wire fence between life and death.

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Great Alone http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34912895-the-great-alone

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