(Review) The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Publisher and Publication Date: St. Martin’s Press. 2018. Paperback edition 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature.
Pages: 576.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: This book covers a large audience of possible readers. For example: women and literature, domestic violence, family saga, and coming of age story.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Kristin Hannah’s Goodreads page

This is the third book I’ve read by Kristin Hannah. The other two books are The Nightingale and The Winter Garden.

“Some fears you carried alone.” Page 138.

Summary:
In the summary of the book you’ll read at Goodreads or Amazon it mentions the father, Ernt Allbright, is a Vietnam War veteran. It fails to mention he had been a POW for several years. This is a significant point. In the 1960s and 1970s, there wasn’t a mental health care system for veterans (not really.) The knowledge of how to help veterans, support groups, counseling, books, and medications came later. Ernt had a serious mental health disorder, it was not going to clear up like getting over the flu. He was not a person who could be reasoned with or led to rational thinking. His brain was…..what is the right word? His brain was still in that state of survival mode and anticipating threats. His wife looked to him to make rational, logical decisions, but he was not capable. He desperately needed help. Further, his wife Cora kept reflecting back on who Ernt was before the war. Ernt is not that person anymore. Yet, Cora clings to the thought of who he used to be and the hope of who he can be again. This is tragic and heartbreaking.
I feel that I can speak freely about this, because my son has PTSD from combat in Iraq. He is not able to work. He cannot make certain decisions. Most days he cannot sleep. Most days he cannot handle being around people other than his family and close friends. He takes medicine. He sees a doctor. But the David that was is gone. I’m thankful he is home and able to be with family. However, David has a hard time with life post war.
Sharing about my family is not meant to be a political statement. It is meant to share a glimpse of my family’s experience with PTSD and the after-effects of war.
Back to The Great Alone.
The only child of this sad couple is Leni. When the story begins it is 1974, and Leni is thirteen. Later the story jumps to 1978, and then the mid 1980s.
After Ernt lost his job in Washington state, the family moves to Alaska. They live in a small community of independent, resilient, hard working people.
The Allbright family learns to prep during the summer months for the lengthy grueling winters. The community helps them. They literally take the family under their wing.
Leni doesn’t fully understand the complexities of her family until later.
Leni wants a connection to someone her age.
Meanwhile, Ernt’s mental health condition deteriorates.

My Thoughts:
The Great Alone is an epic story.
It’s a story to get lost amongst the series of sad events that swirl and pile up like a huge snow drift.
From the beginning, I felt the story wasn’t going to end well. But, I wanted to know what would happen to Cora and Leni.
It’s a story with several themes and ideas running through it. All of them are heavy. Too heavy, because it left me drained.
Some of the themes are sacrifice, love, loss, vengeance, loyalty, intimacy, transformation, discouragement, disappointment, regret, loneliness, and isolation.
Some of the major ideas in the story: coming of age, war veteran, mental health disorder, living in the Alaskan wilderness, young love, codependency, domestic violence, and addiction.
Just when I thought the story was going to wrap up with the characters another chapter began in their lives.
Cora and Leni are extremely close. Their relationship alone was an idea that could’ve carried the story.
Overall I’m glad I read The Great Alone. However, it is a heavy story to digest considering the ongoing events of 2020.

(Review) Standing Together by Carlos R. Evans and Rosemarie Evans with Cecil Murphey

Standing Together
Publisher and Publication Date: Kregel. June 25, 2019.
Genre: Biography. Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 256.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: People who have PTSD related to war experiences.
Rating: Excellent.

For more information about the book visit Kregel.

Amazon link

PTSD Foundation of America

About the authors:
•Sgt. (Ret.) Carlos R. Evans is a minister with the Assemblies of God USA, a Wounded Warrior spokesman, and a motivational speaker. Born in Puerto Rico, Carlos was an avid athlete through his high school and college years. At university, he studied Theology and was very active in his church. When the tragic events of September 11th occurred,
he felt compelled to join the family legacy of service in the US Marine Corps, and originally planned to join as a Chaplain.
Carlos served three tours of duty in Iraq and was assigned to Afghanistan for his fourth deployment. In May 2010, he was the squad leader on foot patrol when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. The blast took both of his legs and his left hand. Medically discharged after his rehab at Walter Reed, Carlos served in the Marine Corps for eight years.
•Rosemarie Evans, an experienced nurse, is now a full-time caregiver and student working toward a master’s degree in marriage and family from Liberty University.
Carlos and Rosemarie live in Orlando, Florida.
•Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than one hundred books, including the autobiography of Franklin Graham, Rebel with a Cause and the New York Times best-seller 90 Minutes in Heaven. Cecil lives in Georgia. Check him out at www.cecilmurphey.com

Summary:
During his fourth deployment, US Marine Corps Sergeant Carlos Evans stepped on an IED–and the loss of both legs and his left hand was just the beginning of the struggle for his life.
For the next two years, he and his wife, Rosemarie, went through the rehabilitation process together. As a nurse and mother of two young children, Rosemarie was used to caring for people, but the task of taking care of her triple-amputee husband brought new challenges every day. In addition to his limb loss, Carlos faced PTSD and developed an addiction to painkillers. He was sure Rosemarie’s life would be better without him–and that it might have been better if he hadn’t survived at all.
But unlike the majority of marriages put under similar strain, Carlos and Rosemarie stayed together. With the help of family, friends, and–most importantly–a strong faith, they’ve built a solid marriage and discovered a ministry they never expected. By the hand of God, their story, which began in devastation, has turned into one that draws in and lifts up more people than either of them would ever have dreamed.
Not only will disabled veterans and their loved ones find help here, Carlos and Rosemarie’s captivating journey also speaks to those who long for stronger marriages, care for loved ones with disabilities, or are facing a new normal in their own lives, small or large. It is a powerful resource for leaning on God in the midst of life’s great difficulties–and for finding ways that, through faith, profound loss can bring incredible blessing.

To read an excerpt: Standing Together.

My Review:
When I heard about this book I was anxious to read it. My son is a Veteran. He too has PTSD. His tours in Iraq were in the beginning years of the war. Help for Veterans were limited to prescriptions to help with depression and anxiety. The support groups were limited to older Veterans in attendance. A younger Veteran often felt uncomfortable sharing with older Veterans. Counseling was not available unless you had cash to pay the bill.
I’m thankful for progress in helping Veterans. I’m thankful for Veterans like Carlos R. Evans who write books and speak publicly about their experiences and the help that’s available.
Several reason led me to give Standing Together an excellent rating:
•The couple both share their stories. As a result, Standing Together helps Veterans and their spouses or loved ones.
•Carlos Evans is transparent and honest about his feelings post injury.
•Their story gives insight to the process of how the family finds out about an injury or death. Most of the civilian population is not aware of the process.
•PTSD is explained not so much in words but in sharing the symptoms that Carlos has endured. For example: nightmares and hallucinations.
•Carlos and Rosemarie explain their Christian belief. How they came to believe in Jesus Christ. They share points when their faith seemed small and about to disappear. Through their story and words I see how their faith grows.
•Their marriage is a strong witness. All married couples go through hard times. Not all people experience what they have, but they persevered and stayed together.
•And going a little further on the previous point. Standing Together is an inspirational story. They inspire all people to serve one another in love, compassion, and mercy!