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 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.
Leni Allbright is thirteen years old and has moved five times in the last fours years. Her dad, Ernt, is a former Vietnam POW and her mom, Cora, is a waitress. Ernt suffers from nightmares, can be violent, and has trouble keeping a job. They are continuously on the move to escape Ernt’s demons, their creditors, and to find new work. Ernt receives an unexpected letter from Earl Harlan that will change his life forever. Earl’s son Bo was a very good friend of Ernt who passed away in Vietnam. The letter is to inform Ernt that Bo has left him his land in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. Cora and Leni are very hesitant to make the move to Alaska, but will do anything if it will help Ernt, and he thinks this is just the fresh start he needs.
The Kenai Peninsula is an extremely isolated area that can only be reached by boat or plane. The Allbright family arrived in May and were immediately warned that they must prepare for winter. The town is small, but everyone is very friendly and willing to show them the Alaskan way. At first Leni and Cora were quite happy with how well Ernt seemed to be doing – he was excited about his new land and worked very hard to fix up the land and the house. However Leni was fearful that once winter was upon them and the days became long and dark, her dad’s temper and nightmares would return.
Kristin Hannah did a fantastic job of transporting me to Alaska! I felt like I was right there with the Allbright family working the land and preparing for the brutal winter months. Her character development is excellent, with many likable characters and a few that are unlikeable. I loved Large Marge! She was not one of the main characters and I wish there was more of her. She is spunky, speaks the truth, and has a big heart.
This is a coming of age story spanning over a decade. It is raw, heartbreaking, and violent at times. It is also a story of love and survival of both the wilderness and by the hands of Leni’s father. I devoured this book and stayed up late one night because I had to know how it would end. Although it was tough to read at times, I could not put it down. It’s been awhile since a story has pulled me in quite like this one.
I highly recommend this book and have no doubt that it will end up on my top ten list for the year!
Do you have a favorite Kristin Hannah book? I loved The Nightingale and would love to read more of her books.
*Thank you NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Kristin Hannah for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.
My Rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2/6/2018
Pages: 448 (eBook)
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