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.”
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.