Primary Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Published: 30 Jan 2018
Page count: 435
My Format: Audiobook via Hoopla
Pacing: Good, until the end
Would I recommend it: Yes
Commission Link: Buy The Great Alone
My rating: ★★★★☆
Synopsis from Goodnreads
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.
Kristin Hannah is a master storyteller. Before I started my blog, I read The Nightingale and The Things We Do for Love by this author and gave them 5- and 4-stars, respectively. I knew reading another Kristin Hannah book wouldn’t be a mistake. Here are my pros and cons for The Great Alone:
- I love how the author completely and thoroughly transports the reader to 1970s Alaska. You absolutely will feel like you are off the grid in the middle of nowhere. You will get cold. You will get hungry. You will feel alone. You will feel scared. It is written that well.
- You will love Leni. The situation her parents put her in, from living in the Alaskan wilderness to suffering the consequences of her Dad’s PTSD, would be a lot for anyone to handle, much less a young girl. The fact that Leni not only makes the best of her new life, but actually embraces it and thrives in Alaska is just wonderful to read.
- Every character will elicit emotion in the reader. You will root for Leni and pray she finds a life for herself. You will get super frustrated with Cora for staying in an abusive relationship and at the same time you will sympathize somewhat with her reason for doing so. You will hate Ernt even though you understand he is suffering from PTSD. Even the secondary characters are intriguing and have their own thorough backstories. It is rare, in my opinion, to find a story so full of complex and interesting characters.
- I was intrigued by the survival aspect of the novel – both surviving in Alaska and surviving a life of abuse.
- Leni’s journey was epic – both good and bad – and very much worth reading.
- This book makes me want to visit Alaska.
- I felt like the bulk of the story was pretty repetitive. We got a lot of information about the boring day to day life, the lack of sunlight, the dangers of Alaska, and the rotten things the Dad (Ernt) was doing. I was actually surprised at how much I felt like was reading the same scenes over and over. So much so that I wondered if it was purposeful so that the reader could experience the desolation, the tedious days, and the darkness by reading about it over and over. If it was purposeful, it was effective, but I still think it was a little overdone.
- I felt like the ending was rushed. After the slow and purposeful pace of the first 75% or so of the book, the last 25% felt like the author hit a “oh no, I need to wrap this up fast” moment. The ending was too much and too fast for me and it simply didn’t mesh with the first part of the book in my opinion.
- There is a scene near the end of the book where Leni provides some information to a police officer that she shouldn’t have. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to give any plot points away, but suffice it to say this was wholly unbelievable and stupid. Leni isn’t a stupid person and having her do this in the story felt completely out of place and unnecessary. It rather disappointed me to be honest.
Kristin Hannah can draw me into a story almost unlike any other author. She writes so authentically. Her stories feel genuine because she writes what is real and she doesn’t need flowery sentences or fantastical scenes to tell the story. Whether the story is something dreadful and frightening or whether it is about love, she writes with an honest and genuine voice. I think that is why so many readers love her books.
Even with the cons I mentioned above I still really liked this book and I would recommend it to anyone.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Great Alone. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)