Thursday, March 8, 2018

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Pages: 435
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Fly Away and The Nightingale
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

Ernt Allbright, once a romantic and kind man returned home from Vietnam as a different and very troubled man.  Cora, his wife, grew up in an affluent area, but left that all behind to be with Ernt despite her parents' warning. Cora had Leni, her daughter, at a very young age and since then has lived a very nomadic life constantly uprooting Leni at every turn. One of Ernt's friends and fellow Vietnam veterans leaves him a house in Alaska. So, the family moves, yet again, to the wilderness of Alaska with the hopes of starting over and escaping some of Ernt's dark shadows that seem to always follow him.  At first things seem better for Ernt as he is able to initially control his unpredictable and violet personality, but as winter approaches in Alaska they realize that they are sorely unprepared. Thanks to the townspeople they are able prepare themselves a bit more and Leni makes her first real friend. However, as the nights get longer and the weather colder, so does Ernt's personality. Is it Alaska's unpredictability that they should be weary of or the man that they don't know anymore that lives in their house?  Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone kept me up flipping the pages till very late. I was completely engrossed in the Allbright's tale of survival, post-traumatic stress disorder, abuse, friendship, and even romance.

I absolutely adored Leni in The Great Alone. My heart truly went out to her as she is sometimes more of an adult than her two ridiculous parents.  Although I appreciated her close relationship with her mother, Cora frustrated me as she was always putting Leni in a dangerous situation by staying with Ernt.  As time goes on in Alaska, Leni sort of branches out and spreads her wings a bit. She even forms a close relationship with someone who will change her life forever.  I was a total sucker for that plot line and wanted Leni to leave Alaska and her crazy parents behind.

Cora is someone I pitied in The Great Alone. I mean we have seen it all before. The abused woman who makes countless excuses for the abuser, but as things progressed, I really felt for her. Essentially she was trapped and I was rooting for her to break free. But where will they go in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness? This part of the story was truly a nail biter. On the other hand, Ernt was a character I despised. I mean at first I felt badly for him as he is obviously struggling with returning from Vietnam and dealing with post-traumatic stress, but he is just a jerk. I couldn't wait for him to get what he deserves.

The buildup and the suspense that Hannah created in The Great Alone was outstanding. I was truly on the edge of my seat and was wondering about the characters long after I stopped reading. She kept me guessing and she kept me worried! Another outstanding aspect of the novel was the setting. A remote town in Alaska is an incredible setting for a story and Hannah hits it out of the ballpark with this one. It was as if Alaska was its own character. I found her descriptions of the weather and the dark nights juxtaposed by Alaska's secluded beauty absolutely spellbinding.  Readers can tell that Hannah has spent some time in Alaska as she truly brought the setting to life so vividly.

Although I didn't love The Great Alone as much as The Nightingale, I still really, really enjoyed it and found it to be so memorable. It is going down as one of my favorite books of the year!


  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! Although the domestic abuse plotline makes me wary, I still want to know what happens to the characters.

    1. Yes, that part of the story was infuriating, but it did keep me on the edge of my seat. Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. I am hoping to get to the Nightingale this month, and hopefully after that, I`ll read this. I know so many people were excited about its release. Great review!

    Carmen`s Reading Corner

    1. The Nightingale is phenomenal. I hope you get to read it soon. This book wasn't as good, but still a great read. Thanks for visiting, Georgiana.


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