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ALONE

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 1 week, 6 days ago

21 February 2021 ALONE by Megan E. Freeman, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, January 2021, 416p., ISBN: 978-1-5344-6756-9

 

“Desolation (n.) deprivation of companionship; emptine; sorrow; woe”

 

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it seems like years since its been here”

-- George Harrison (1969)

 

“Television

 

Reach for remote.

Grave-faced news anchor talks to camera.

 

‘...imminent threat resulting in emergency

evacuations...state of emergency...top

priority to secure the homeland...infrastructure

protection...western United States...information

security...crisis and emergency planning…’

 

TV shows farmland.

Soldiers erecting rows and rows of tents.

Highways and traffic jams for miles.”

 

I don’t know whether a survival story can be characterized as fun. “Fun survival story” sounds a bit oxymoronic. Maybe it makes a difference that this is fiction, because ALONE is breathtakingly exciting, and powerful. Impossible to put down.

 

In the suburbs outside Denver, Colorado, twelve-year-old Maddie Harrison takes advantage of her divorced parents' trust. It seems like harmless fun. She texts her mom that she is going to be at her dad’s house, working on a big history project. She texts her dad that she is going to be at her mom’s house, babysitting her younger siblings. She and a couple of girlfriends plan a secret sleepover at her grandparents’ empty summer apartment. She organizes the evening, but then her friends are unable to make it, so she spends the night there alone. 

 

In the middle of the night, there is a commotion outside, and someone bangs on the door, but she stays quiet, so as not to get in trouble. In the light of morning, she discovers that everyone in town has been hastily evacuated. There are voicemails from both parents assuming Maddie is on one of the emergency transports with the other parent. But she is not. And she cannot reach them. A visit to where everyone boarded the transports brings the realization that all cell phones were confiscated and left behind. As were pets and most belongings.

 

She heads to her mom’s house. Soon, the power goes out. Then the water system ceases to work. Foraging at neighbors’ houses, Maddie encounters a friendly dog she knows, a rottweiler named George. So it becomes Maddie and George surviving alone, together. 

 

“Scavenging

 

I go house to house

searching for food, water, other supplies.

 

Sometimes doors are unlocked. I walk right in.

Other times, I find an open window or a dog door

big enough to crawl through.

 

Lots of homes have doors from their backyards

into garages, and then unlocked doors from

garages into houses.

 

Must brace for the worst.

 

Many dogs and cats have starved to death

and are decomposing inside.

I occasionally surprise a pet who’s managed

to survive by drinking toilet water.

But as guilty as I feel, I can’t help them.

It’s hard enough to keep George and me fed.

I leave the doors open and try to shoo them through

so they can test their luck at survival outside.

 

Mostly, though, rancid fish tanks, bird and rodent cages

carcasses of pets make me gag and want to run.

I get in and out as quickly as possible.

Limit my searches to kitchens and pantries.

 

Anything I haul home has to fit one of

two categories or it isn’t worth my time.

  1. food and drink (cans of soup, vegetables, fruit, chili, boxes of 

crackers, bottles of water, cranberry juice, ginger ale)

  1. supplies for survival (soap, propane, matches, candles,

boots, sunscreen)

 

I always bring a pad and pencil with me.

I always leave a thank-you note with my name and address.

 

At one house, I find a shoebox full of batteries

along with extra flashlights.

 

At another, I find a first aid kit with bandages and those ice packs

that freeze when squeezed hard enough.

 

At still another, I find a hand-cranked emergency radio.”

 

At least it’s summer. But it won’t be for long. Niceties like the thank-you notes will soon go by the wayside, when Maddie comes to realize that she’s in this for the long haul and that arctic-like Colorado wintery weather is just around the corner. It’s going to take big thinking and hard work for her to have any chance of making it alone..

 

Can Maddie survive the elements? Threats to her health and wellbeing? Can she survive the indefinite loss of those she loves and everyone else, too? Of possibly never getting to go on dates and fall in love? What’s it like to really feel alone?

 

ALONE is a coming of age survival tale that starts out great and then becomes amazing. It is quite a thought-provoking and fun read. 

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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richiepartington@gmail.com  

 

 

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