I seem to be focusing on survivalist-type literature these days — My Absolute Darling, Idaho, Educated, and now this, The Great Alone. A family of three gets the opportunity to move to an isolated community in Alaska. The father hopes to escape the demons he brought home with him from a POW camp in Vietnam. The mother loves the man he used to be and is steadfast in her commitment to him, even now in his angry and paranoid state. Leni is 13 years old and has no say, but has to figure out how to navigate the violence in her own house and the loneliness everywhere else. The father finds some like-minded folks in the community and Leni finds a friend — a boy! The father spirals toward a darker and darker place and Leni begins to understand that she has got to get away. The mother is locked in her self-destructive idea of what love is.

The author had a tough act to follow, after The Nightengale, and The Great Alone was nowhere near as riveting and engaging. It did show, I think, an authentic picture of how it could come to pass that a woman would stay with an abusive partner, but I don’t think that was the book’s primary theme. I’m not quite sure what exactly was.

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