The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Published 2/6/18 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.”
“That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops.”
Content warning: PTSD, Abuse (physical, verbal, emotional), murder, death, grieving (loss of loved one / parent), cancer, description of broken bones / wounds, toxic family relationships.
As a first time reader of Kristin Hannah, I can safely say that this won’t be the last book I read from her. She seems like a good fiction author and storyteller. This was hard-hitting, but it wasn’t anything I haven’t read before in other books. Just be cautious going into it, and make sure to read the content warnings if you’re unsure.
Meet the Allbrights: Ernt, Cora, and Lenora “Leni”
Ernt, the father of this story, is a Vietnam veteran with PTSD. He watched a lot of bad things happen, and in return they’re impacting his present day life. He has moved his family five times in four years because he just wants the next best thing. The problem, he’s a toxic man who is feared by his wife and daughter. They’re afraid to speak up.
He receives a letter from the father of the man he watched die, and it states that his son wanted him to have his land in Alaska. Ernt doesn’t hesitate and drags his family to “The Great Alone.”
“Alaska isn’t about who you were when you headed this way. It’s about who you become.”
Even before they moved to Alaska, you can tell that Ernt isn’t a nice man. He’s very finicky and becomes upset easily. His actions in this book are very inexcusable regardless of his condition. I absolutely hated him. I almost put the book down because of how he treats people. I’m not sure of another way to tell you I hate him lol.
Leni and Matthew Walker’s relationship is honestly goals. They both have traumatic things going on in their lives, but they never judge one another. They help each other through it. They’re precious gems that should be protected at all times! They are also very smart kids. They can see the reality of any situation they’re in.
Cora. Cora, Cora, Cora. I know she is married to an abusive man, and hindsight is 20/20, but I just wanted to shake her! I wanted to tell her that she needs to get her and her daughter out of there. All she did was smoke and agree with Ernt. The occasional motherly scold came from her mouth, but nothing that would change Ernt’s mind. I know I shouldn’t hate her for anything, but her daughter should have been the first person she protected in their situation. I guess it’s one of those “easier said than done” situations.
The only problem I had with this was the transitions between events. Most of the time there was no warning, things just happened. I’m not going to spoil what made me drop the star rating, but I’m sure you probably have some inkling of what I’m talking about. Maybe I’m the only one with the problem. Either way, it wasn’t a five-star read for me. It was good but not that good.
I will definitely continue on reading Hannah’s other novels. I think if you read the content warnings about this one and are still interested, then go ahead and give it a go. It’s not perfect, but it’s fast-paced, action-packed, and the characters are well done. If you do pick it up or have already read it, let me know your thoughts.
“Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. Her novel, The Great Alone, was also voted as Goodreads best historical novel of the year in 2018.”
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