Everyone except Maddie, and I mean everyone, has been inexplicably evacuated from her town in the middle of the night in the beginning chapters of the free verse novel Alone by Morgan E. Freeman (Aladdin, 2021). Now Maddie has no access to anyone (phones have been abandoned). She is without electricity and running water and access to other needs, and she is going to have to survive on her own. She lives in a rural part of Colorado and the winter will get cold, but by keeping her wits, Maddie figures out the most important things to do and she takes charge of her life.
Along with the neighbor’s dog, Maddie survives all sorts of disasters, including a blizzard, a tornado, a fire started by lightning, injury, and attack by animals. Maddie finds food by raiding the pantries of abandoned homes and learns to plant a garden (the library helps with the difficult parts of survival). Her three-year survival story is engaging and Maddie is a loveable spunky character (even though it was her own dishonesty that got her into this mess). Maddie’s ultimate conclusion (and the author’s stated one) was that the loneliness from society was the most difficult part of survival alone in one’s hometown.
The author indicates that she wrote this book with Island of Blue Dolphins as an inspiration. The girl abandoned in that book was in her home territory. She needed to survive in her own familiar home, not in a completely new environment. So, likewise, Maddie had to survive in her own hometown. Many survival stories focus on learning the new environment and situations. It is a nice parallel.
There were a number of aspects that I didn’t like about the book, starting with the inexplicable abandonment of the town. It was, of course, improbable. (NO ONE else got left behind?) But beyond that, what part of the country has tornados along with everything else? How did Maddie keep those toilets flushing? (She learned that she could force flush with water or gatorade, but surely the town sewers would not function right?)
These are silly “grown-up reader” hang-ups. My 11-year-old daughter really enjoyed reading this for book club, and that is why I was inspired to read it too. It was exciting and Maddie was a clever and strong-willed character delightful to read about. I’m glad I gave it a read.