Reviewed by Lotte:
I had heard good things about Hannah and I have to say her style of writing didn’t disappoint one bit. Her descriptions were simply beautiful and her use of language evoked such vivid images it was as if the characters and settings were playing out real-time. This was the story of a family trying to survive post Vietnam War with the father being a POW. They embark on a move to Alaska with the hope that it’ll be the fresh start. Within this book there are many love stories, with the Alaskan life as well as with each other. Ultimately the question became will this unrequited love prevail? I feel the book needs a censor warning though as it heavily contains references to veteran PTSD and physical abuse.
I found the pace of the story slightly out of sync for me. The first half felt slow and hard to get through, with the focus being on building the world and the details needed for the story to really start. The second half was paced much faster, which I much preferred. It felt like this was where the main part of the story was and I was eager to keep reading. In a way I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more time spent on these latter events, rather than all the build up at the beginning.
Despite being keen to keep reading and finding out what comes next, there were some discrepancies in the storyline that I found hard to overlook. Like why they mentioned only making one mistake in Alaska because the second will kill you, yet Hannah then writes this major life changing event in which the characters knowingly made more than one mistake and practically did the opposite of every warning that had ever been given (desperately avoiding spoilers here!). Then there were the inconsistencies, for example, when the other towns-people acted to help Leni and Cora but then later on in the book, fail to follow through on their promise. And finally the secrets that were kept at the end didn’t feel real to me. Like Large Marge holding on to that knowledge without telling those close to her who would have been hurting desperately. It just didn’t quite fit into the narrative and sense of unity that Hannah created within the Alaskan community.
I did enjoy this book and it was definitely worth it in the end but I couldn’t quite give it four stars.