The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Published by: PanMacmillan
Fiction, 440 pages
Rating: 3/5 stars
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.
About the author:
Kristin Hannah is an 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.
I won this in a Giveaway and must confess that my interest in the book was piqued considering the popularity of Kristin Hannah’s books, notably of course The Nightingale, which is still languishing in my ‘will read soon’ part of my shelf. Set in the early 70s, this book is a mix of romance, some drama that revolves around the coming of age of a young girl Leni and the beauty and part history of Alaska.
The first 100 pages of this book sets the roots for its main characters: that of Ernst, Leni’s father who has been a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War; her mother Cora who defied her parents for a whirlwind passionate love story and Alaska as a place: remote, wild, isolated but made warm by its people though deadly in the winters. Ernst’s volatile personality is addressed as ‘the war made him like this’ and several chapters go by taking readers through different and similar anecdotes where he snaps, abuses and harms the people around him.
Just when things look like they will change for Leni and her mother, there is a violent turn and it only gets worse. The subsequent action leads Leni and her mother to move out from Alaska with Leni leaving an unfinished love story. They reconcile with Leni’s grandparents and things go on uneventfully till the time Cora dies and tries to ‘do the right thing’. Sadly, the manner of death is another emotional trope and it gets tiring to go all emotional over that development.
If you love reading a love story (there is two in this one, the second being Leni’s) that has suffering at its core and set in a different time period, you will fall in love with The Great Alone. But if you are looking for depth and dramatis, this will be a tad disappointing. The main characters ended up irritating me and I found other characters pushed away to the periphery that were more interesting and appealing.
Verdict? Read it without any expectations and you can be satisfied with the romantic tropes in this one (there are many). Also warning alert: those who have faced abuse in intimate relationships may find the writing a bit triggering.