2 Sep 2018



Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband, Ernt - a recently returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war - uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter, Leni, to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.
- Inner Front Cover Blurb

That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops. 
First Sentence; 1974, Chapter One

Yelling was like a bomb in the corner: you saw it, watched the fuse burn, and you knew when it would explode and you needed to run for cover. Not speaking was a killer somewhere in your house with a gun when you were sleeping.
- Memorable Moment, Page 247

SOURCE ... An Arkansas Book Club read. Please look out for Kelly's thoughts on the book in the coming days.


MY THOUGHTS ... At the time of reading taken to what felt like the brink of despair by Cora; my feelings for her husband, Ernt, mixed; my thoughts on Leni (their daughter), complicated.

It's now a week or so since I finished the book and put 'pen to paper' so to speak and what do you know?

In the light of day, what now feels like yet another story of an unassuming, incredibly weak or incredibly strong woman (depending on your standpoint) facing insurmountable odds. Ernt, a military veteran, the horrors of what he may have seen/done only hinted at: a character I felt I should have empathy for and yet didn't. Of the three main characters, that leaves only Leni with whom I did feel a certain affinity and yet ... 

Yes, whilst I totally got her need to 'mother' her mother and, on the whole, I found the lengths to which she and Cora went to make excuses for/accommodate the obviously mentally unstable Ernt realistic BUT, even taking all of this into account, her voice, still not one, that I particularly recognised as that of a adolescent.

Drawn in by the wonderful descriptions of the harsh, alien landscape of Alaska, caught up in the sense of community; of them all 'being in it together', for goodness sake, I even quite liked Leni's romance with the boy 'next door' ... when it was sweetly innocent. Essentially I really rather enjoyed the portion of the book covering the early years, it was the latter events and, in particular, those of 1986 (by far the shortest time span of the three covered by the book) that, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, ruined the book for me.

Feeling so let down by the turn the story took and especially by that of the miraculous recovery of the 'boy next door'. Yes, its nice to have your happy ever after(s) but really??? Surely not at the cost of the reader's intelligence. I'm sorry but I felt the author  lost the plot ... literally.

NB The Arkansas group of which I'm an honorary member meets next week, please be sure to pop over to Kelly's blog to read her thoughts on this book. TT


Brian Joseph said...

Stories of families, including unstable fathers, going out into the wilderness are somewhat common. They can be very compelling. I guess that by definition, the parents are of questionable character in these stories. I can see how the ending was a letdown. Stories of this type depend on realism to make them work.

Kelly said...

I think we both ended up having similar feelings about the book, but perhaps for differing reasons. As for the ending... maybe that was a way to make up to the reader for all the grueling angst and drama of the first part of the book? It did stretch credibility.

As for Ernt, be sure to note the "memorable moment" in the review I'm posting tomorrow for a different book, read after this one. I think it makes a good point that can be applied here.

My review of this book will post on Wednesday. I'm anticipating some good discussion since I already know there are those who loved it and those who had some of our same problems with it. Glad you were able to "join" us this month. I'll print this out to share with everyone.

Literary Feline said...

It's too bad you didn't care for this one, Tracy. This is one I am on the fence about reading still. I have heard such mixed reviews about it. Thanks for your great review!

nightwungsraven said...

Thank you for your honest
and excellent review. For
my part, I am very uncertain
about the book. And I am very
interested to read what Kelly
says when she posts her review.

DMS said...

First of all- I love that you are an honorary member of a book club so far away!

Sorry you didn't enjoy this one more. I did love hearing all of your thoughts about it. Thanks for sharing. :)

Suko said...

Tracy, as usual, I appreciate your honesty. It sounds like you didn't really connect with the characters. I hope your next book will prove to be more to your liking.

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

I have never read anything by this author and the only one of her books I currently have on my Goodreads ‘Want To Read’ list, is ‘The Nightingale’, which was recommended to me by a fellow blogger.

I think this might be a storyline I would either love or hate, no middle ground to be had here and I can’t really make up my mind which it would be!

I know I would like the descriptive narrative about Alaska, the development of the characters, and the social history commentary about a way of life fast disappearing. However, all three of those elements together, might just be a bit too intense and overwhelming for me.

The idea that you thought the ending to be a bit 'lame', also doesn't sit too well with me, especially after such a detailed storyline until that point.

One for consideration and definitely one your book club will no doubt be divided about.

Thanks for sharing and your usual constructive honesty 🙂


Charlie said...

I read Kelly's review just before yours and it's great to have them both. Your thought on the ending reminds me of other books that do similar, where the rest is good or not bad and then the ending tries to be too perfect. It sounds like there's more about relationships here than location, which I suppose works in the context of the characters winning against the odds but it sounds like for the reader it misses out.