Book Review of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

464 pages

Published 2/6/18 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 9781250165619

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*Click on photos to view source.

“Alaska, 1974.
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.

ANYWAY.

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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Book Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

343 pages

ISBN: 9781250202031

Published: 3/3/20 by St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads Synopsis:

You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers

Review:

Trigger warnings: Suicide, rape, mention of panic attacks, killing of an animal, toxic familial relationships, alcoholism, body weight shaming, cancer / chemotherapy, manipulation, murder.

I read An Anonymous Girl by the same author duo, and I wasn’t a big fan. I had high hopes since it was considered a psychological thriller, but it ended up being more of a domestic thriller just without the chills and thrills. This one, however, was so much fun. This really was more on the psychological side, and had included more of a mystery.

You’re introduced to Shay, a single thirty-one-year-old statistics-loving woman. She has just been demoted at her market researching job and she can’t seem to find herself a man. She loves her best friend Sean, but he has a new girlfriend named Jody. She currently lives with Sean—and his girlfriend—YIKES! Shay takes the subway to work, but one day she witnesses a girl jump in front of the train, unexpectedly. That girls’ name was Amanda Evinger, a twenty-nine-year-old emergency room nurse, and she leaves her necklace behind. The moment Shay picks up the necklace is the moment her life changes…for the worst.

Meet Cassandra and Jane Moore, Stacey, Daphne, Beth, and Valerie. The unbreakable circle of friends. This aspect of the book reminded me of Bunny by Mona Awad, which I didn’t enjoy or understand at all, so I was hesitant to move forward. Thankfully this one didn’t confuse me like that one did.

This is a non-spoiler review, so I’m going to go into much more detail than that. Shay ends up getting involved with the circle of friends after going to Amanda’s memorial service (I believe) and chaos ensues. The group of girls actually threw me for a loop! They’re all pretty terrible, but there’s one in particular that I didn’t think anything about until things are being revealed. I was very happy with that. It also gets pretty dark as far as the reasons they have for their actions. Hence all of the trigger warnings at the beginning of my review.

I enjoyed how much I got to know the characters. I think the authors did a bang-up job with that. They all had their own personalities, and I never got them mixed up. The Moore sisters were like daylight and dark. It was a lot of fun to follow everyone around. I constantly wanted to scream at Shay because the reader finds out the plot twists before Shay does. She’s actually pretty dang gullible. That’s not to say that their actions are justifiable.

The one major point I didn’t like was how much the story jumped. I understand that it worked for the type of story, but it did take me out of the story a bit. Other than that, though, it was a ton of fun! I hope that you give it a try regardless of your opinion about their other novels. There are so many small details that went into this book, and I thought it was worth the read!


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Book Review: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

391 pages

Published: 1/14/20 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 9781250087331

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads Synopsis:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

Review:

Trigger warnings: Sexism, rape, alcoholism, racism, mental disability: manic-depressive psychosis, murder.

You have to make peace with the past or you can never move in the future.

I loved this story so much that I made my boyfriend sit down and listen to me explain the whole plot to him. He pretended he was interested, so I’ll give him points for that.

2018. Morgan Christopher has been put in the North Carolina Correctional Facility for Women because of a crime she technically didn’t commit. Her minimum sentence is one year, but the maximum is three. Her parents are alcoholics, so she’s never really had company for the year that she’s been there, until Lisa Williams and Andrea Fuller show up. Andrea is an attorney, and Lisa is the daughter of Jesse Jameson Williams, a famous black artist. He was in the process of creating an art gallery in Edenton, North Carolina, before he died. In his will he stated that he wanted Morgan Christopher to restore a 1940s mural by August 5th of that year, or Lisa won’t be able to keep his house that she’s living in. He offered her $50,000 and extra thousands for art supplies. The problem? Morgan doesn’t know how to restore a mural.

While she figures out how to restore the mural, she is constantly being pressured by the possibility of going back to prison if she doesn’t meet the deadline. She’s constantly meeting new people that she feels like she should explain her situation to. Meanwhile, Anna Dale’s story is secretly being unveiled through old newspapers, Anna’s journal, and an old family member of Jesse’s.

1939. Anna Dale receives a letter that she is one of the winning artists in the 48-States Mural Competition, but she didn’t win for the state she lived in which was New Jersey. The judges were pleased by her work, so they offered her the opportunity to create a mural for a post office in Edenton, North Carolina. 

She agreed, and left for a three-day trip to Edenton, a break from the harrowing task of burying her mother. “The one person in the world whose love and nurturing Anna could always count on.” Before she died, she had given Anna a journal, and Anna agreed to hold on to anything her mother gave her for the rest of her life.

It stated in the letter that she needs to become familiar with the town, so the mural can represent that town as much as possible. Unfortunately, most people in the town were either upset that Martin Drapple, a long-time resident and well-known artist in Edenton, didn’t win or that she was a woman. All the men didn’t trust her ideas for the mural. There was a famous Edenton Tea Party where women stood up for their freedom, but the Mayor mentioned Edenton was tired of hearing about it.

Her plan was to leave Edenton after three days, but the Mayor insisted that she stay. She can live Myrtle Simms, a widow whose daughter just got married and left the nest. Anna can give her rent to help fix up her big house. Eventually, they find a warehouse for her to work in during the process. 

That is where the two timelines start to connect. I don’t want to spoil anything because it’s so much fun watching all the layers unfold, and let me tell you, there are A LOT of layers.

I loved both female leads. They were strong-willed, persevering, and self-aware women, who took others into account even when they don’t have to. That does become a flaw, but they’re still human after all. They deal with a lot of obstacles, especially Anna, living in the 1940’s amidst the times of sexism, racism, and everything in between. These are definitely women I would look up to and strive to be. They take on challenges that are above their heads. They confront their mistakes…eventually. Outstanding characters. 

There is the teeniest, tiniest romance that slowly forms throughout the book, but it definitely doesn’t take over the story. It’s actually quite lovely. It’s between Morgan and a man named Oliver. He helps her with the mural, and he’s the curator for the gallery when it opens. I enjoy how much they enjoy each others company.

The writing is really good! There’s nothing complicated or hard to understand. The back and forth POVs are done extremely well. I was never bored at any point throughout the story. Diane Chamberlain knows how to write a good story, and I commend her for that.

I will pick up Diane Chamberlain’s other books from the past and anything she writes in the future. This is one of my new all time favorite books. There are no plot holes that I could find, the characters have strong personalities, and the writing is beautiful. What more could I personally ask for?
I will be purchasing this when I can!  


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