The front cover looked so…. cold. At first, I thought it was black and white, but then tinges of pink and blue showed themselves to me. There was still life there.
But what does it mean alone? Is anybody ever really alone?
A year and a half ago – on Independence Day, actually – Allison’s mother and father declared independence of each other. They got a divorce. Since then, Allison’s lived with her father in their hot Californian home. Now she’s going to visit her mother who took a teaching job in Alaska. And the only way to get there is to fly in a ratty single engine airplane with a cocky pilot who’s making her ride on top of her own luggage. Not cool.
The only reason Allison’s even visiting her mom is because she thinks that maybe she can talk her into moving back home and giving up this whole ‘change the world’ idea. But all of Allison’s plans crash as the plane’s wings freeze up and the plane goes hurtling through the air and into the wilderness below.
The pilot’s dead. Allison’s not, but she doesn’t know a thing about how to escape from this mess. But fortunately she doesn’t have to. An old Inupiat trapper pulls his dogs up at the wreck and bustles her off to his village. The man’s name is Ikayauq and Allison convinces his lazy grandson, Matu to drive her to the coast. Matu agrees, but half-way there he gets bored with the trip and stops over at a cousin’s hut. There the storeowner assures her that someday a mail plane will come to rescue her. But days go by and no plane appears. Will the plane ever come? And can Allison learn to respect the villagers in the meantime?
A major theme in Alone in the Ice World is the divorce between Allison’s father and mother. Allison experiences and expresses immense frustration over their separation, writing often that she hates them both and complaining that neither of them understands her. In the end, her family life is still fragmented, but she has learned to be happy by depending only on herself (thus the alone in the title).
Allison’s mother expresses various statist positions throughout the novel.
“Look, Allison,” Mom said. “There’s that woman from the Alpha Beta parking lot. Poor thing. I don’t understand why our government can’t do something. If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can provide for people like that.”
A week later she joined a group that raised money to buy condemned houses that were fixed up as shelters. Mom would have been a great missionary. She was always finding projects to work on. [pg. 40]
“Oh, Allison, I feel so fragmented,” Mom had said. “Why can’t people live in harmony with nature and each other. We’re outlaws, you know, polluting the rivers and streams, scarring the mountains, spoiling our oceans. It’s part of the human condition.” [pg. 18]
“All I need is just one child who needs me, one child who really wants to learn and deserves the chances,” she said. “That would make it seem worthwhile.” [pg. 124]
I was struck (though not amazed) at the degree of hypocrisy Allison’s mother displays. She claims to want to live in harmony with nature and the environment but goes about destroying her own family’s harmony. In the last quote she wants ‘just one child’ to teach, but she has neglected – deserted – the very child that is all her own.
After Allison is rescued, her mother suggests that they reward the Inupiats by giving them something. Allison responds, “I can’t think of anything they need… Not a single thing.” [pg. 124] This is supposed to demonstrate that Allison no longer thinks of herself as superior to the Inupiats because of her possessions or education. Which, she isn’t, but she’s dead wrong. The Inupiats do need something, and they need it desperately; so does she. They all need salvation.
Allison references pop-cultural icons (actors, singers, posters, etc.) and dances to a song [pg. 68].
A boy smokes a cigarette. [pg. 66]
A man strikes a woman twice in the face, causing blood to stream down onto her clothing. [pg. 95]
‘D—’ is used twice (fully spelled), ‘holy snowballs’, ‘good God’, and ‘gosh’ are used once each.
Conclusion. I would not recommend Alone in the Ice World due to its modernistic and individualistic emphases.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret