First of all, I would like to give heartfelt thanks to Glen Sobey for providing me with a digital review copy to read this book. My review is honest, unbiased, and voluntary.
Having previously read the first book by glen, ‘War Blog’, I was keenly waiting for his next book. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined this book to leave me emotionally and physically drained. At first, it was difficult for me to connect with the main character since I come from a completely different background and cultural setup. But having interacted with Glen I was able to see and understand the context better. The story is not unfamiliar or unknown, but its the treatment that sets it apart. Glen Sobey’s book will leave you crying, sobbing inconsolably, laughing, smiling, and endless other emotions. It’s an emotional roller coaster that will leave you teary-eyed and numb for a while.
Plot: The book is about a young girl, Harper Lyons, who like any typical teenager wants to be part of the in-crowd. So, to be part of the crowd she does things which she otherwise would not. She ends up with drug abuse, drinking, boys, unprotected sex, and the list goes on. The situation at home is no different, growing up in a strict God-fearing family, Harper finds it difficult to communicate with either of her parents. Her only fault is that she grew up too soon and had no one to guide her or correct her with love. The distance between her and her parents augment to such an extent that she blindly lands into the arms of an older boyfriend, Zachary. He is conniving, manipulative and good for nothing, who happens to trap innocent girls into drugs and misuse their situation by landing them in situations that he can make use of like blackmailing them into submission for sex and drugs. It is sad to see Harper tear herself away from her family once she realizes she is with a child. She cannot reach out to her parents, who also happen to wish their hands off her before she becomes a bad influence on her siblings. The family dynamics will leave you scarred, and thinking as to why as parents we often stop listening to our kids and pay attention selectively.
Harper reaches out to her estranged grandfather who helps her find her reason to live. However, Harper is unaware that her Grandfather, Cooper has Alzheimer’s disease and is still coming to terms with that. Cooper too has a strained relationship with his wife and son, Greg(Harper’s father). Greg blames Cooper for the death of his sister Heather by drug abuse, wherein Greg was more to blame. The ensuing years saw them drift apart and Cooper ended up alone in Alaska. The rest of the story will have you spellbound with scenic landscapes and raw human emotions which hit you in the gut, leaving you breathless and at times snot-nosed. The journey of Harper and Cooper is awe-inspiring and also heartwarming. The novel takes you on their journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Cooper teaches you many life lessons that may seem trivial but on second thought you will realize its mettle.
I found myself connecting with some part of every character, which made the book all the more special for me. I connected with Harper when she felt lonely and isolated, unable to connect with her parents. She is labeled and written off and becomes synonymous for mistakes. The parents fail to see the daughter who wants to let go of her mistakes and start fresh. But they assume her to be guilty, which leads her to further alienation from her family.
I took a long time to read the book because many scenes were like reliving my pain. It is definitely a page-turner, that will feel like a roller coaster ride of emotions. I foolishly wished for Cooper to recover even though I knew that people suffering from Alzheimer’s never recover. This book represents Alzheimer’s and the other related issues accurately and in an honest, way. A lot of topics have been discussed in the book; dementia, drug abuse, drinking issues, peer pressure, family issues, family fragmentation, religion, the concept of god and more have been dealt with so well. The descriptions of the Alaskan terrain are so real that while reading you can see in your mind’s eye the various landscapes.
The one thing I am taking away from the book is the byline, is said by Cooper. The words will find a keeper in all who have faced hardships and have risen from ashes, stronger. The line is powerful and it symbolizes the very spirit of the book. The by-line of “No fences in Alaska sweetheart, “Never let them build one around you” will stay with you forever. Though listed as YA, I personally feel that the book is suitable even for adults and everyone would enjoy the journey of Harper and Cooper.
Warning: Carry a box of tissues when you sit to read.