"A TOUR DE FORCE." --Kirkus (starred review)
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 of The Great Alone
I have read hundreds of books in my lifetime and have many favorite authors, but one of my all time favorite writers of fiction is Kristin Hannah. I can remember the very first book I read of hers, The Things We Do For Love, and I was hooked. Her way of portraying human feelings and emotions just tugged at my heart and left me wanting more. I have read many of her books over the years and I jumped at a chance for an advanced reader copy of her new book soon to be released, The Great Alone, and I was not disappointed. If you are a fan you will love it, or if you have never read any of her works before, do yourself a favor and purchase The Great Alone. The following is a summary of the plot and characters.
Leni Allbright just wants to fit in, feel safe and live like a normal teenager, but her life is far from conventional. Moving frequently from place to place leaves her with no roots or place to call home. Her mom Cora has always been her anchor in life, no more so than when her dad Ernt arrives home from the Vietnam War, a changed and broken man. His nightmares and frequent outbursts make life difficult at home and nearly impossible for him to hold a job. When Ernt is willed some property from a fellow friend and veteran in Kenaq, Alaska, he jumps at the chance for a fresh start. Cora and Leni are a little leery about the prospects of living in a harsh environment they know nothing about, but no one says no to Ernt.
Arriving in Alaska, Leni immediately loves the beauty of the landscape and the raw nature that surrounds them. Their hopes are a little dashed when they see the cabin that is now theirs and the work it will take to make it habitable, but they all dig in determined to make the best of their new life. Their neighbors are friendly and willing to help them settle into their new home. Skills and safety are taught, as well as gifts brought to help them get through their first winter. Things finally seem right for the Allbrights. Leni has never seen her dad so positive, the summer is delightful despite the work and Cora remains hopeful this new beginning will keep Ernt’s behavior and nightmares at bay.
When summer is over and Leni starts school she finally makes a friend in Matthew Walker. The two are drawn immediately to each other and a strong friendship is born. Things couldn't be more perfect for Leni until the winter sets in. As the days get colder and the nights even longer Ernt becomes restless and agitated and the the two become a lethal combination. As his nightmares and rantings begin again as winter wears on, the abuse starts and Cora is the target. For years Cora hid the bruises from Leni as being her own clumsy fault, but now Leni sees the truth. And to make matters worse, Ernt has taken a strong dislike to Matthew Walker's dad, making Leni and Matthew’s friendship difficult at best. As time goes by and Matthew and Leni’s friendship turns to love, the two find they must hide their relationship from her father. Now Leni and Cora must stick together if they are to survive the winters with a husband and father who’s become a ticking time bomb. When the neighbors try to interfere for the safety of the two, Ernt enters into a world of madness and decides to barricade his family in and the neighbors out. With no hope in sight, mother and daughter now prisoners, plan an escape with disastrous results. As Cora and Leni’s world changes forever, mother and daughter are now bound by a secret that will irreparably change the rest of their lives.
This book was remarkable not only for the strength of it’s characters, but the emotions that it elicited as I was reading it. I was so frustrated with Cora. One minute I was angry with her and the next heartbroken at her situation and her inability or desire to change it. Her need to explain away the bruises and abuse was so frustrating at times. I wanted to feel for Ernt, but I couldn't. Yes, I was saddened he was broken from the war, but he seemed to take pleasure in his self-righteousness and his crazy ideologies. At times he was penitent, but most of the time he was just ugly and abusive. His intimidation of Leni and brutal treatment of Cora was indefensible.
Leni was shy and sweet and my heart ached for her. She so desperately wanted to be like any other girl her age, but her life was anything, but ordinary. Witnessing her father’s treatment of her mother, their crazy relationship, along with the brutal rantings of her father left her exasperated or hiding in fear most of the time. Her relationship with Matthew was her only lifeline. Matthew was kind and gentle and thought the world revolved around Leni. It was as if the two were made for each other. The supporting characters in The Great Alone pulled everything together. I loved Paul and Geneva Walker and especially Large Marge and although they were not in the book for long, Cora’s mother and father despite their being estranged were there for them with open arms, particularly when they needed it most. I could go on and on about the book, but suffice to say it was an emotionally haunting read and the ending was beautiful, typical Kristin Hannah style.
If you want a great novel to get you through these cold winter nights, then The Great Alone is the one for you. If you are a fan of Kristin Hannah, then you know what to expect. If you have never read any of her novels and you are a fan of women’s fiction with strong characters and a story-line with plenty of emotion and heart, then this book is for you.
I want to thank St. Martins’s Press via NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah for a fair and honest review.
Get our Badge!
save our badge, then link back to us at: