The Great Alone review

The Great Alone

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.

This was my first book by this author.  It was recommended to me by my sister who thought it was a pretty good book.  I read this book on Tuesday – it took me just over 6 hours to read it cover to cover.  I had minor interruptions and bathroom breaks but otherwise kept it in my hand. Was so deep in it that I forgot to eat the soup I had bought for supper.

Yes, I liked the story and thought it moved rather smoothly throughout.  It would have been exceptional except for those last couple over-emotional chapters. I felt like the author was trying to make me cry rather than sneaking something in so subtly that the tears come.  But whatever.  It was a small thing.

Quite frankly, I would have liked to see more about the awesome animals of Alaska too – more encounters – because the one encounter included was short and rather anticlimactic.  But maybe the author thought it would be too cliché.  Personally, I would have liked it a lot better.  The characters emphasis all through it that a person has to be armed and prepared for bear and wolf encounters but then nothing happens in that area.  Why bother stressing it so much then?

The book is good, I do recommend it.  It is not my normal genre, for sure, but it is good to stray now and then from the norm.  I give the book an A.


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