The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
This was the first ‘adult’ novel I read in 2019. I work with children and my extra reading time is typically spent reading children’s books. I saw this title on an Instagram account that I follow and I thought it worthy of trying it out. WOW! I was sucked in immediately. It takes place in a critical time period during the 1970’s and follows the coming of age of Leni, the 13 year old main character.
Leni’s childhood (if you can call it that) consists of being caught in the middle of the toxic relationship between her parents. She uses books and her Polaroid camera to find an escape from the dysfunctional life she’s living with her parents. Her transformation takes place when they move to Alaska. She not only learns the crucial Alaskan survival skills needed to make it through the dark winters; she befriends a classmate, Matthew. For the first time in Leni’s young life, she has a real best friend. Leni clings to this budding friendship while enduring Alaska’s harsh winters and her father’s escalating domestic violence towards her mother. I truly connected with Leni’s character for several reasons; the most important being that I grew up in this time period. My mom had me when she was barely 18 and in many ways, we “grew up” together just as Leni and her mom did. Leni’s story is one of survival, perseverance, and hope.
I saw this book on a library’s Instagram post. I am a fan of true crime documentaries and nonfiction reads so I was immediately intrigued. Kerri doesn’t go into the gore and details of the murders so if you’re looking for a gruesome read, this isn’t the book for you. This is her memoir about their lives before and after Dennis Rader was arrested. Her timeline of events forms your understanding of how much her faith and God played a role in her healing. Like most victims of emotional abuse and trauma, Kerri struggled with panic, anxiety, and depressive disorders. There are plenty of mixed reviews about this book but in my opinion, it was a worthy read. I was able to empathize with her and her family’s struggle for peace in the midst of so much evil. This book is a spiritual read and refers to scripture and her inner battle with herself and her feelings about what her father did. Her epilogue about forgiveness and faith sum it up nicely below.
“I’d been holding on too tightly to the bandages I wrapped around my wounds years ago, wearing my armor to protect my heart from getting hurt again. I wasn’t just holding out on my dad and myself, I was holding out on God. I was rotting within, so I forgave my dad for myself….. God led me through the canyon, one foot in front of the other, and God saw me minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, through all that followed.”
This book was picked by a virtual book club that I am a part of. I did not anticipate it being such a great read, but I am so glad I read it. This is the first self-improvement book that I have read in a long time that lays out the process of incorporating change in a step by step manner. James Clear shares his tragedy and how he used it as an opportunity grow and change for the better. He goes over the four step process of every habit and how they work in our daily lives in a simple manner that makes this informational read accessible to all levels of readers. He also shares the four laws of behavior change and how we can integrate those into our daily habits to work for us and not against us.
I feel as if I have unconsciously been selecting books that are “coming of age” stories. Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover; was inspiring, soulful, and resonates with so many, I am sure. She was brave and full of courage to follow her own path in the midst of so many obstacles. Tara was born into a devout Mormon family in Idaho. The dysfunction, psychological and physical abuse she endured at the hands of one of her brother’s was hard to read at times, but with hope and a few special people who came into her life, she was able to accomplish what she believed almost impossible. I found so many bits of wisdom, memorable quotes, and new reading topics I want to research in this book. When I come across books like this, it’s a reminder to me of exactly why books have always been such a big part of my life.