Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Report - Alaskan Settings

When I first mentioned we'd be traveling to Alaska this summer, Ruth asked if I'd read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. She said it was superb … and she was right! I read it about a week before we took our trip, and it gave me a good feel for the vastness of the land, the challenges of the weather, and the spirit of those who call Alaska home.

The story centers on Leni, who is 13-years-old in 1974 when her father Ernt, a former Vietnam POW, learns one of his military buddies left him a piece of land in Alaska. Leni, her father and her mother, Cora, road trip to the small community and discover an old run down house on the remote point of land that they will call home. Everything goes well when they arrive in the summertime, and the small Alaska community is full of wonderful characters who come together to help these newcomers prepare for the coming winter. Leni meets Matthew Carter, who is her age, and they become friends.

However, as winter arrives, Ernt's mental state, which was altered by the war (in what today we would call PTSD), brings lots of difficulties to this small family. Cora loves Ernt and often makes excuses for his behavior and reminds Leni that he was different before the war. The book covers several years of their life in Alaska, years filled with good times and difficult times, community harmony as well as discord among neighbors, death and abuse and tragedy, love and reconciliation, with the Alaska setting providing a beautiful (yet harsh at times) backdrop. Leni herself falls in love with the land despite the difficulties she experiences there.

This is a beautiful story with lots of ups and downs and surprises along the way. It was very emotional (in a good way) to read all the family dynamics and the draw of the land and the unexpected ending. I highly recommend it!

I chose Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks (which I received free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) because it is also set in Alaska. I read it right after we returned from our trip.

This story is told from the perspective of Murphy Anderson, who is living in Kodiak, Alaska, and searching for her twin sister who has been missing for years. Murphy is "an artist hiding from an escaped killer who uncovers one of Word War II's most dangerous secrets - a secret that desperate men will do anything to keep hidden." This is a great read - part mystery, part psychological thriller, part historical fiction - with lots of unexpected turns. Among the characters are several police officers, two crime investigators, a Russian priest, a government official, an elderly man in a wheelchair and his teenage grandson. When Murphy travels to the remote island of Ruuwaq to help investigate the discovery of five dead men (ten years earlier), she uncovers a Quonset hut (hidden under an avalanche of rocks) with another skeleton inside.

Throughout the story there are new discoveries that lead to more questions. In fact, every time I thought I figured out who-did-it, that person was killed or injured! There were quite a few dead bodies strewn throughout this well-written book, as well as some history about the Japanese occupation of the Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu during World War II. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery thriller.

Have you read any books set in Alaska lately? (Or books set in Paris? I'll be heading there next!)

1 comment:

  1. I was interested in reading your review. I have thoroughly enjoyed some Kristen Hannah novels, and not much cared for others. This one has gotten mixed reviews so I was happy to see you enjoyed it.


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