Thursday, February 8, 2018

Review: The Great Alone

The Great Alone
By Kristin Hannah
Published: February 6, 2018

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 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.

My review:

Leni Albright is used to moving around a lot and she is used to feeling like the responsible one in her family. Leni has just started a new school when her dad receives a letter from the father of his deceased Army buddy Bo, informing him that Bo left him some property in Alaska. Ernt is convinced that this is a chance for them to start over in a place where they can live free without anyone telling them what to do. Leni's mother Cora is certain this fresh start will save her husband and that he will go back to the way he was before his time in Vietnam as a POW. When they arrive in Alaska they realize just how unprepared they are but thankfully they meet some helpful people like their neighbor Large Marge. Leni and her family have to learn how to live in a beautiful but unforgiving land with long dark winters where you can't outrun your problems.

Ernt may have survived some terrible things in the war but he was not a sympathetic character. Only Cora sees something good in him and tells Leni all the time about how he used to be. Leni doesn't really have those memories of him. Cora drew my ire. I thought she viewed her husband through rose colored glasses some of the time and when things were bad she just held on to this idea that she could save him. I felt really bad for Leni. Her parents were both a mess. I was reminded a little bit of The Glass Castle (movie-haven't read the book yet) at times. Leni's parents were similar in some ways to Jeannette's. Fortunately for Leni she has the friendship of some great people like Large Marge and Matthew Walker, a teen her age. She also falls in love with the land and photography. I was really rooting for her to escape her family's issues and it was great to see her start to thrive in Alaska.

I had high hopes for this book after reading The Nightingale and while this is a very different story, I was not disappointed. The setting is vivid and the story is well written and engrossing. I didn't feel the quite the same emotional pull that I had when I read The Nightingale but I still cared about what would happen to the characters (except Ernt who I hoped would be eaten by a bear). I think The Great Alone would be a fantastic pick for book groups and it would make a good movie. It will likely be one of my favorite books this year though it did not make me want to visit Alaska. I think I'll aim for Hawaii instead regardless of how much I want to see the Northern Lights! Kristin Hannah is becoming one of my favorite authors. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss


  1. I love Kristin Hannah so I'm glad you enjoyed it. I thought you was going to say you was disappointed. Firefly, Night Road and The Nightingale are my favourites.

  2. Fantastic review! I am excited to check this one out...hopefully it will be my next read! I don't think anything will make me as emotional as The Nightingale, but I'm glad this was an enjoyable read overall. The setting of Alaska seems really exciting. Thanks for the great review, Christina!

  3. I've seen this on several blogs. Thanks for the review.


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