Lots of Twists and Turns
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“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise, don’t put it there.” This famous writing advice from Anton Chekhov is very applicable to this book.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah opens with a volatile Vietnam Vet, Ernt, who frequently moves his family around in hopes of finding happiness. When a war buddy dies and leaves him a cabin and some land in the wilds of Alaska, off he goes with wife Cora (age 30) and daughter Leni (age 13) in tow. In this rough and remote environment, Ernt goes from intimidating his wife and daughter to seriously beating Cora. Clearly, he is the gun. But there’s a little bit of a twist here because he is continuously going off as the reader is forced to wait for the big bang.
Having been in a relationship with a volatile Vietnam vet, this book hit close to home. Hannah did a good job of describing his mental state though she does not label it. I think Ernt — and my ex-friend — were manic depressives. She also does a great job of depicting a codependent relationship in which Cora makes excuses for Ernt’s violence and refuses to tell anyone what’s happening to her no matter how bad it gets.
In spite of all the violence she endures, Cora continues to think of her marriage as the love of all times. It is not unusual therefore, that when Leni grows up and falls in love, she also thinks it’s the real true thing that will endure for all times, through all the twists and turns of fate. The author then proceeds to twist and turn Leni’s fate with great regularity.
Frankly, there were a few too many twists for me. In spite of this, I cared about Cora and Leni and wanted to keep reading about them right up until the last page.