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The great alone
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  न्यू यॉर्क टाइम्स रिव्यू

Two new coming-of-age novels - one set in Wisconsin during World War II and the other in post-Vietnam-era Alaska - feature teenage girls trying to cope with damaged, destructive fathers. The narratives differ in tone, setting and style, but their protagonists share a longing for truth and stability in turbulent homes where secrets and lies abound. Meghan Kenny's debut novel, "The Driest Season," grew out of her award-winning 2005 short story of the same title. This resulting quiet but satisfying novel about a long, hard summer expands her original raw, exquisite portrait of a girl in crisis into a broader examination of American adolescent anxiety and grief, contextualized by devastating global conflict. The haunting first sentences reveal the death-byhanging of 15-year-old Cielle's father, whom she is the first to find in his barn: "She looked and didn't look. Her father hung still, bloated and blue." Not every great short story is the seed of a great novel, but Kenny by and large succeeds. This suicide is far from the only tragedy in the book, which even so never veers toward the melodramatic. Instead, Kenny reveals, with a clarity so delicate it is sometimes painful, the human reaction to trauma. Time slows and senses heighten in those first moments following the daughter's discovery. "Cielle stood a moment at the door, expecting the world to stand still with her, but it didn't. Clouds like stretched gauze moved quickly above, the tire swing in the oak tree shifted, and its chains creaked." Cielle experiences life the way most teenagers do - she's hyperaware of her immediate world and detached from the larger scheme of things (her consciousness of the war in Europe is limited to the boys she knows who are going off to fight in it, and the rationing of food and gas). Though Kenny offers little exposition about the era, her austere landscapes and careful attention to color and light evoke the paintings of Andrew Wyeth or Edward Hopper, or the poetry of William Carlos Williams, suffusing the book with a midcentury mood throughout. Less placid is Kristin Hannah's "The Great Alone." Hannah has written more than 20 books since 1991, and her fan base has grown along with her oeuvre. Her most recent novel, "The Nightingale," topped the best-seller list for much of 2015, and a movie adaptation is in development. Her new novel has wasted no time catching up, having already been optioned for film rights as well. It's easy to see why: Like "The Nightingale," which was set in France during World War II, this novel features a camera-friendly backdrop - this time, Alaska - and a Hollywood-ready sentimentality. It's 1974 and the signs of the times flash vividly for 13-yearold Leni Allbright. In the first five pages alone she contemplates EST seminars, the I.R.A., Watergate, the Munich Olympics massacre, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and, of course, Vietnam, where her father, Ernt, was a prisoner of war. He's been suffering from post-traumatic stress ever since, and Leni and her mother, Cora, suffer too as Ernt moves them from one home to another, trying to find peace in a chaotic world. When Ernt learns that a former war buddy has bequeathed him a cabin and land in Alaska, he believes this will be his salvation. Though Leni and Cora have misgivings about leaving their current home in Seattle, they share Ernt's hope for a restorative new life in the last frontier. The family arrives on the picturesque, sparsely populated Kenai Peninsula, where they immediately meet the neighbors. Hannah, a former attorney, seems determined to prove beyond a doubt that what the locals lack in number they make up for in personality. First she presents the heavyset, middle-aged woman who owns the dry goods store: "Folks call me Large Marge," she informs the newcomers. Shortly thereafter, we meet an elderly man, apparently somewhat unhinged, who offers, "Folks call me Mad Earl." Folks don't just have descriptive nicknames in Hannah's Alaska; they have a tendency to use bumpersticker-like slogans in everyday conversation. Within minutes of meeting the Allbrights, Large Marge issues a warning in a series of adages: "Two kinds of folks come up to Alaska, Cora. People running to something and people running away from something. The second kind - you want to keep your eye out for them. And it isn't just the people you need to watch out for, either. Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There's a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you." In the very next chapter, Earl's daughter repeats Marge's admonition almost verbatim: "In Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you." And this is where I got excited, thinking the town might actually be a "Westworld"-like theme park where the locals are robots, programmed to talk like Alaskans of yore, repeating party lines in place of independent human communication. Sadly, I was wrong; Hannah's characters are just people who like to pepper-spray you with prepackaged plot points, like bitches with sawed-off shotguns. Hannah is a generous author, often doing the work of the writer and the reader. After reading an entire chapter about how dark and dangerous the Alaska winter is - and how similarly dark and dangerous Leni's father is becoming - one might still ask which danger, the climate or the man, presents the focal threat of the novel. Rather than leaving this question to hang in productive ambiguity, Hannah offers the answer. "All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home." Leni and her neighbor Matthew fall in love, but there's very little heat in this teenage romance. It's hard to warm up to a kid who says things like "Nothing is normal in the last frontier" and "This is Alaska. We live and let live." (However, by the time they're a few years older, their lovemaking is screenplay-ready.) Kristin Hannah has clearly found a commercial sweet spot, sticking to the everpopular themes of young love, family drama, loss and redemption, but giving her novels a literary boost by placing them in historical settings. "The Great Alone" is not without its moments of compelling pathos, though, and therein lie its strongest connections with Kenny's prose. Like Cielle, who is smart enough to see through the deceptions her mother comes up with to shelter her, Leni too experiences a moment of disillusionment. All her life she'd "believed her mama's explanations ... that Dad was sick and sorry, that if they loved him enough, he would get better and it would be like Before. Only Leni didn't believe that anymore." But the tidy summaries Hannah often provides for her complex subjects aren't needed, given her admirable storytelling skills. We've witnessed Leni's growing discernment; we don't need the book-clubready clarifications that accompany too many scenes. In contrast, Cielle's gradual awakening and maturation are made all the more visceral thanks to Kenny's faith that her reader is as acutely perceptive as her beguiling young heroine. ? ANN leary is the author, most recently, of the novel "The Good House."

  पब्लिशर्स वीकली रिव्यू

Voice actor Whelan ratchets up the suspense in her tense narration of this tale of Ernt Albright, a Vietnam vet with PTSD, who takes his wife, Cora, and 13-year-old daughter, Leni, to Alaska to live off the grid. After a soldier buddy dies and leaves Ernt a plot of land with a shack, the family moves there, hoping that a life among nature and fending for themselves will be a fresh start and a good fit for Ernt. But the isolation, darkness, and cold only exacerbate Ernt's irrational paranoia and anger. Whelan easily differentiates the voices of the three main characters: Ernt growls with rage, and Cora's voice trembles with fear while attempting to sound light and casual as she tries to placate Ernt, and Leni sounds both youthful and frightened. The secondary characters are just as memorable. Whelan gives a no-nonsense tone to Large Marge, a neighbor; she also perfects the ranting and raving of Mad Earl, a conspiracy theorist whose far-out beliefs fuel Ernt's paranoia. Whelan is especially effective during the violent scenes: instead of getting louder or more emotional, she drops her voice to a tense and chilling whisper. This edge-of-your-seat audiobook will keep listeners riveted. A St. Martin's hardcover. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  स्कूल लाइब्रेरी जर्नल रिव्यू

Set in 1974 Alaska, this sweeping tale follows a girl coping with the dangers of domestic violence. Though ill-prepared for the extreme and harsh conditions, 13-year-old Leni and her parents, Ernt and Cora, have to learn how to survive in the unforgiving wild of their new home on the Kenai Peninsula. With the help of the small-knit community of endearing fellow homesteaders, the Allbrights manage to just barely stay afloat. But Ernt, who has never recovered from the trauma of fighting in the Vietnam War, struggles with the isolation and the interminably dark days of winter. Leni grows up witnessing her father (who is increasingly unable to control his paranoia and jealousy) abuse her beloved mother. Leni's greatest comfort and escape is her schoolmate and neighbor Matthew. Over the years, their friendship evolves into a forbidden romance. Hannah highlights, with vivid description, the natural dangers of Alaska juxtaposed against incongruous violence. VERDICT Give to teens who loved the author's The Nightingale and to fans of Jodi Picoult.-Tara Kehoe, Charlotte Mecklenburg -Library, Charlotte, NC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
<p> An instant #1 New York Times bestseller! <br> <br> "A TOUR DE FORCE." -- Kirkus (starred review) <br> <br> Alaska, 1974. <br> Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. <br> For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. </p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska--a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.</p>
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