Title: The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Secular Fiction
Publishing Date: February 6, 2018
About the Book:
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.
I have come to the educated conclusion that one must never read a Kristin Hannah book without a box of tissues by their side. She has a way of masterfully engrossing the readers into the lives of the characters and then turning them into puddles. Whether you are laughing or crying Kristin Hannah makes you feel what you’re reading.
Unlike the other books I’ve read by Kristin Hannah, it took me longer to get drawn into the story. (It may or may not have to do with the fact that it takes place in Alaska and I’m currently feeling spring fever in NY). I enjoy reading books about people leading simpler lives, but the isolation was really difficult to get through. Personally I can’t fathom how people survive Alaska with sane company, let alone someone who is mentally deranged. Several scenes in the book were difficult for me to read because of how angry they made me, but it also increased my sympathy for Leni.
I felt incredibly angry for Leni throughout the story. Instead of her parents caring and protecting her as they should, she walked on eggshells through her life. She feared her dad and felt she had to protect her mom. Her father prevented her from being able to develop healthy relationships outside of the home, and so she had to hide her friendship with the only boy around that was her age. It wasn’t just fear of “being in trouble,” but the fear of “life or death,” and that type of anxiety cultivated over many years can crush them.
Since the majority of the books that I review on here are Christian, I feel that it’s important to note that this book is not. Leni’s father Ernt cursed the most in the book, and unfortunately the Lord’s name was spoken in vain on several occasions. It bothered me as a reader to see that. I understand that the author was furthering the dislike for Ernt, but still feel it was unnecessary.
Age Appropriateness: I don’t consider this book a good option for younger readers. It contains quite a bit of language and violence including murder. I feel it’s best left as an adult read.