The novel is Leni’s hero-journey as well as a coming-of-age tale. The story is told from her point of view. It is her mind the reader inhabits; it is through her eyes that the reader experiences the narrative. The beauty and danger of the wilderness we experience through her.
The Hero’s Journey.
Leni travels from Seattle, Washington to Kaneq, Alaska on a beat-up Volkswagen bus. She escapes from Kaneq on a ferry, escapes from Homer on a small airplane and comes back to Kaneq. All these physical journeys mirror her emotional journey.
When the novel begins, she leaves her home to go to school. School is her escape from her parents’ emotional upheavals. She escapes the bleakness of her home and poverty by reading books. Her body is present with her parents, but her mind is in the warren of Watership Down or the Shire of the Lord of Rings. She devoured books for entertainment to escape.
Her journey was a study in contrasts. In Alaska, she feels both confined and free. Although the expanse of the Alaskan wilderness was hers to explore, the dangers posed by the climate and the wild animals keep her close to home. At home, where she is supposed to be safe, she feels caged with her father who becomes increasingly rabid.
To be continued…