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Mama reached into the breast pocket of her pink waitress uniform and pulled out her cigarettes. She looked tired; she’d worked the late shift last night and had the lunch shift today. “You go on, Leni. You don’t want to be late.” Her voice was calm and soft, as delicate as she was. Leni was afraid to stay and afraid to leave.
The Great Alone PDF Book by Kristin Hannah
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It was strange —stupid, even—but she often felt like the only adult in her family, as if she were the ballast that kept the creaky Allbright boat on an even keel. Mama was engaged in a continual quest to “find” herself. In the past few years, she’d tried EST and the human potential movement, spiritual training, Unitarianism. Even Buddhism.
She’d cycled through them all, cherry-picked pieces and bits. Mostly, Leni thought, Mama had come away with T-shirts and sayings. Things like, What is, is, and what isn’t, isn’t. None of it seemed to amount to much. Dad kept his arm around Mama’s waist and pulled her over to the kitchen table.
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He pulled out a chair, said, “Leni, come in here!” Leni loved it when they included her. She left her spot on the sofa and took a seat beside her mother. Dad smiled down at Leni and handed her a paperback book. The Call of the Wild. “You’ll love this, Red.” He sat down across from Mama, scooted in close to the table.
He was wearing what Leni thought of as his Big Idea smile. She’d seen it before, whenever he had a plan to change their lives. And he’d had a lot of plans: Selling everything and camping for a year as they drove the Big Sur highway. Raising mink (what a horror that had been). Selling American Seed packets in Central California.
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Tom Walker stepped out of the store, carrying a big box of supplies. He saw them and stopped. Leni was acutely aware of how she and Mama looked, standing knee-deep in snow, faces pink with cold, tuques white and frozen. No one went walking in weather like this.
Mr. Walker put his box of supplies in the back of his truck, shoved it up against the cab. Large Marge came out of the store behind him. Leni saw the two of them look at each other, frown, and then head toward Leni and her mom. “Hey, Cora,” Mr. Walker said. “You guys are out on a bad day.”
A shudder of cold made Mama shake; her teeth chattered. “Wolves were at our place last night. I d-don’t know how many. They k-killed all the goats and chickens and ruined the pens and c-coop.” “Did Ernt kill any of them? Do you need help skinning? The pelts are worth—” “N-no,” Mama said. “It was dark. I’m just here … The Great Alone PDF Book
to put in an order for more chicks.” She glanced at Large Marge. “Next time you go to Homer, Marge. And for more rice and beans, but … we’re out of money. Maybe I can do laundry. Or darning. I’m good with a needle and thread.” BREAKUP IN ALASKA.
The season of melting, movement, noise, when the sunlight tenatively came back, shone down on dirty, patchy snow. The world shifted, shrugging off the cold, making sounds like great gears turning. Blocks of ice as big as houses broke free, floated downstream, hitting anything in their way.
Trees groaned and fell over as the wet, unstable ground moved beneath them. Snow turned to slush and then to water that collected in every hollow and indentation in the land. Things lost in the snow were found again: a hat taken by the wind, a coil of rope; beer cans that had been tossed into snowbanks floated to the muddy surface of the road. The Great Alone PDF Book
Black spruce needles lay in murky puddles, branches broken by storms floated in the water that ran downhill from every corner of their land. The goats stood knee-deep in a sucking muck. No amount of hay could soak it up. “Here we go,” Dad said sourly, downing his drink.
“Now we’re gonna hear all about his buddy the governor, and how they went crab fishing when they were kids. Good God…” “Three generations of my family have lived on the same land. This place is not just where we live, it’s who we are. But times are changing. You know what I’m talking about.
New faces attest to the changes. Alaska is the last frontier. People are hungry to see our state before it changes even more.” “So what?” someone yelled. “Tourists are flooding the banks of the Kenai River during king season, they’re navigating our waters, they’re packing the marine ferry system and coming to our dock in droves. The Great Alone PDF Book
Cruise ships are going to start bringing thousands of people up here, not just hundreds. I know Ted’s charter business has doubled in the last two years and you can’t get a seat at the diner in the summer. Word is that the foot ferry between us and Seldovia and Homer could be filled every day.”
Now they were all waiting impatiently for the meeting to start. Chairs had been dragged out of cabins and unstacked from sheds and set up in a haphazard fashion on the muddy ground facing Mad Earl’s porch. Thelma sat in an aluminum chair, with Moppet sprawled uncomfortably across her, the girl too big for her mother’s lap.
Ted stood behind his wife, smoking a cigarette. Mama sat beside Thelma in an Adirondack chair with only one arm, and Leni was beside her, sitting in a metal fold-out chair that had sunk into the muck. Clyde and Donna stood like sentinels on either side of Marthe and Agnes, both of whom were carving sticks of wood into spikes. The Great Alone PDF Book Download
All eyes were on Dad, who stood on the porch, alongside Mad Earl. There was no sign of whiskey between them, but Leni could tell they had been drinking. She rolled over for the box by her bed, the one that held Matthew’s letters from the last few years. Not a month had gone by without word from him.
She had each letter memorized and could pull them up at will. Some sentences never left her. I’m getting better … I thought of you last night when I was out to dinner, this kid had a huge Polaroid camera … I scored my first goal yesterday, I wish you’d been there …
and her favorites, when he said things like, I miss you, Leni. Or, I know it sounds lame, but I dreamed of you. Do you ever dream of me? Tonight, though, she didn’t want to think about him and how far away he was or how lonely she felt without him and his friendship. In the years he’d been gone, no new kids had moved in to Kaneq. The Great Alone PDF Book Download
She had learned to love Alaska, but she was lonely a lot, too. On bad days—like today—she didn’t want to read his letters and wonder if he would ever come back, and she worried that if she wrote to him, she would accidentally say what was really on her mind. I’m afraid, she might say, I’m lonely.
Main Street was crowded, but not in the way it should be. There should have been men gathered around barbecues, grilling moose burgers and reindeer sausage and fresh clams, swapping fish tales, drinking beers. The women should have been by the diner, fussing over long tables set up with food—halibut sandwiches, platters of Dungeness crab, buckets of steamed clams, vats of baked beans.
Instead, half the townspeople stood on the boardwalk on the water side of town and the other half stood in front of the saloon. It was like some weird O.K. Corral showdown. Then Leni saw the saloon. Every window was broken, the door had been hacked to bits, left as sharp shards of wood hanging from brass hinges, and white spray-painted graffiti covered the burnt walls. The Great Alone PDF Book Download
THIS IS A WARNING. STAY AWAY. ARROGANT PRICK. NO PROGRESS. April in Fairbanks was an unreliable month. This year, an unseasonable cold gripped the town, snow fell, the birds stayed away, the rivers stayed frozen. Even the old-timers began to complain, and they had spent decades in this town that was called the coldest in America. Matthew walked away from the ice rink after practice, his hockey stick slung over his shoulders.
He knew he looked like an ordinary seventeen-year-old in a sweat-dampened hockey uniform and boots but looks could be deceiving. He knew it, and they knew it, the kids he’d gone to school with for the past few years. Oh, they were friendly enough (no one judged anyone this far from civilization; you could be whoever you wanted to be), but they gave him a wide berth. The Great Alone PDF Book Download
Rumors of his “breakdown” had spread faster than a wildfire on the Kenai. Before he took his seat in his first class in ninth grade, he’d already had a reputation. High school kids, even in the wilds of Alaska, were still herd animals. They sensed when there was a weak member in their midst.
His sister had held him when he cried, rocked him as their mother would have done. Over the years, the two of them had fashioned a vocabulary for grief, learned how to talk about their loss. He and Aly had talked about their pain until there were no words left to say.
They’d also spent hours in silence, standing side by side on the river, fly-fishing, and hiking rough trails in the Alaska Range. In time, his grief had turned to anger and then drifted toward sorrow, and now, finally, it had settled into a lingering sadness that was a part of him, not the whole. The Great Alone PDF Book Free
Lately, they’d begun to talk about the future instead of the past. It was big, that change, and they knew it. Aly had been hiding out in school, using the classroom as a shield against the hard realities of life as a motherless girl, and she’d stayed here, in Fairbanks, to be at Matthew’s side.
Before Mom’s death, Aly had dreamed big, of moving to New York or Chicago, someplace that had bus service and live theater and opera halls. But, as with Matthew, loss had rearranged her from the inside out. Now she knew how much family mattered and how important it was to hang on to the people you loved.
Lately she’d begun to talk about moving back onto the homestead with Dad, and maybe working with him. Matthew knew that his presence here was holding his sister back. It could go on this way forever if he let it, and a part of him wanted to do just that. But he was almost eighteen years old. The Great Alone PDF Book Free
If he didn’t push his way out of the nest, she’d stay next to him forever. Large Marge extricated herself from the hug and pushed Leni back down into the chair. “Goddamn it, John, this proceeding is what’s criminal.” Marge strode up to the judge’s bench, her boots squeaking at every step.
“This girl is innocent of everything and Whack Job Ward coerced a confession out of her. And for what? Rendering criminal assistance? Accessory after the fact? Good God. She didn’t kill her piece-of-shit old man, she just ran when her terrified mother told her to. She was eighteen years old with an abusive dad.
Who wouldn’t run?” The judge slammed his mallet on the desk. “Marge, you got a mouth on you like a king salmon. Now shut up. This is my courtroom. And this is just a damned arraignment, not a trial. You can present your evidence when it’s time.” Large Marge turned to face the prosecutor. “Drop the damn charges, Adrian. The Great Alone PDF Book Free
Unless you want to spend the last days of the season in court. Everyone in Kaneq—and probably on the pipeline—knew Ernt Allbright was abusive. I will bring an endless stream of folks to testify on this girl’s behalf. Starting with Tom Walker.” “Tom Walker?” the judge said.