The Great Aloneby Published 06 Feb 2018
|The Great Alone.pdf|
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
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.
"The Great Alone" Reviews
All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.
This book completely stole my heart. Maybe it's just more fresh in my mind, but I'm pretty sure I enjoyed The Great Alone even more than Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. In fact, it was verging on a five-star read for me until the final few chapters-- which I felt were too rushed and more sentimental than I personally like. But I still highly recommend it.
I loved the atmosphere that Hannah created. She deftly draws the wild beauty of the Alaskan landscape, painting it as the visually stunning and dangerous place it is. Set in the 1970s and 80s, this is about a family of three arriving at the last frontier in search of a different kind of life. And, boy, do they get it.
The Allbrights must work themselves to the bone just to survive the perilous winter in Alaska, but we soon learn that for thirteen-year-old Leni and her mother Cora, there are dangers far greater and far closer to home than black bears and the freezing climate.
They were trapped, by environment and finances, but mostly by the sick, twisted love that bound her parents together.
The author wraps up a survival story inside a survival story. As the family grapple with raising livestock and gathering supplies for the long winter, they also must deal with the fragile, abusive dynamics that exist within their home. Ernt is a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD before anyone knew what PTSD was and this, in turn, leads to violent episodes and paranoid behaviour that threatens the safety of his family.
The complexity of the characters makes this book something extra special. You hate Ernt, and yet are forced to acknowledge that he is dealing with a mental illness back when no one was willing to call it such. You feel frustrated at Cora for sticking by him, and yet she is clearly a victim of abuse. Add to this mix a set of charming secondary characters, a budding romance, snowstorms, near-death experiences and animal encounters, and you have a book that is utterly enthralling.
I especially liked how the author captured the feeling of these Alaskans living in a isolated bubble of their own, being afraid of the "Outside" and the possibility of change. You can draw parallels between this and anyone who has ever desired to put up a wall to keep the "Other" out. Ernt - as well as others in their tiny town - wants to protect the community from any kind of change; from anyone who might come in and affect their way of life. It is, of course, paranoid and delusional.
I could probably go on and on forever, but I'll just say I loved almost all of it. I loved how, like in The Nightingale, Hannah shows the importance and the strength of the relationships between female characters. I loved the Alaskan setting and the multiple tales of survival against the odds. And I loved how everything had something of a fairy tale quality to it, dark places and broken dreams included.
Mama had quit high school and “lived on love.” That was how she always put it, the fairy tale. Now Leni was old enough to know that like all fairy tales, theirs was filled with thickets and dark places and broken dreams, and runaway girls.
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*4.5 stars* rounded up for The Great Alone!
THE GREAT ALONE by KRISTIN HANNAH is an absolutely wonderful, spellbinding, powerful, tense, touching, and heartbreaking domestic family drama story that was an all-consuming and emotional read for me. I was totally captivated with what I was reading and it was extremely hard for me to put down. I couldn’t think of anything else but this story and I don’t think I have felt so many different emotions from reading a book in quite some time. The way that The Great Alone made me feel is exactly how I like to feel when reading a book!
KRISTIN HANNAH delivers an impressive, well-written and beautifully descriptive story here that takes you on an emotional adventure of the Allbright family which is set in remote Alaska in the 1970’s. I fell in love with the character of Leni and genuinely cared for her and her wellbeing throughout this whole novel.
The storyline was so engaging, the characters are all so well-developed, the setting was absolutely fantastic and the ending was bittersweet but satisfying. Highly recommend!
Published: February 6th, 2018
Thank you so much to my fellow Traveling Sisters for another wonderful reading experience!
Thank you so much to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a review!
Review written and posted on our themed book blog:
Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading
Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
Where I live I am surrounded by Coulees!
I think Kristen Hannah is like a fine wine. With each new novel, she gets better and better.
Thirteen year old Leni and her parents move to the Alaskan wilderness as a possible solution to her dad's illness. He suffers from PTSD having returned from Vietnam broken, with an extreme vision and little survival skills.
Once the harshness of winter sets in, the human spirit is tested in a family whose relationship is already in a delicate balance; the lack of daylight brings with it the challenges of isolation and survival. The darkness envelopes them and tempers are shorter. Abuse becomes the weapon of choice for her father to battle the inner demons that visit him almost daily.
The sacrifices both her and her mother make as a means of survival come at a high cost. Even love is a threat in this environment. The wildness of Alaska will either break them or strengthen who they are and who they will come to be.
This is Hannah's crown jewel. 5⭐️
This is my first read by Kristin Hannah and I adored it. Set in the 1970s, it is about Ernt Allbright, a man who returns home to Seattle after being a POW in the Vietnam War. He is now a changed man, suffering sleepless nights, flashbacks, nightmares and volatile in his behaviour. PTSD was an undiagnosed condition at the time but it ravaged Ernt's life and that of his wife, Cora, and his 13 year old daughter, Leni. The Allbright family used to have good times, but now Leni hears the fights and conflict between her parents. Ernt struggles to hold down a job and their moves makes Leni long for a sense of stability. When Ernt inherits a cabin and land in Alaska from a dead soldier, he pleads with Cora that this will be the making of him and them, they could live off the land and be free of the pressures that they have been living under. Driven by this hope, they sell up and buy a rickety old VW van and set off for their adventure in The Great Alone, having little idea as to what awaits them and just how ill prepared they are for it. Alaska takes no prisoners, it has a majestic, harsh, awe inspiring beauty but its wilderness and wildlife is a cruel and unforgiving testing ground for those who make their home there.
The Allbrights arrive in remote Kaneq, Alaska, shocked by the state of the tiny dilapidated cabin and taken aback by all that needs doing and facing a desperately steep learning curve. Without the small community rallying together to help the family they would not survive the bitter, brutal Alaskan winter and the hardships that are to follow. They stock up on supplies, working the land in preparation. However, Ernt's condition worsens, exacerbated by alcohol. He takes out his rage and temper on Cora and the tiny home becomes a place of darkness and domestic violence. Leni learns to read the signs and triggers that foretell when Ernt is going to lose it and you cannot help but feel for her and Cora. Mother and daughter have a close relationship giving them the emotional strength to endure the unbearable. Leni finds solace in books, something I completely understand and relate to. She forms her first friendship with Matthew and begins to grow roots in the community. The community prove to be an invaluable support to Cora and Leni such as the inimitable and capable Marge and Tom Walker. The angry Earl rails against the injustices of life, politics and institutions, grieving over the loss of his son. As the years go by, Leni is changed and shaped by the tragedies and hearbreak she faces,
Kristin Hannah has written a beautifully detailed and emotionally affecting novel that is both compelling and gripping. She captures the twin threats posed the Alaskan environment and the home ripped asunder by the dangerous Ernt. Hannah's greatest achievement though is the characters she creates and the in depth development that takes place. This is Leni's story, the burdens she grows up with, her emotional bond with her mother, and her search for identity and roots. Its a a tale of love and hope despite the battering that life can give. It is remarkably instructive on the cost, consequences and damage of war on families and the suffering that ensues. A brilliant read that I will not forget and recommend highly. Many thanks to St Martin's Press for an ARC.
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.
This book got me to thinking about why I read and at times it would seem I have as many answers as there are moments to consider them..
For me I guess it all began when I was a child. Back then I read to escape. To slip silently, unnoticed, away from the here and now.
Kristin Hannah took me to Alaska and I loved every moment I spent with her, within The Great Alone.
As the story opens we meet the Allbright family. Leni is but thirteen in 1974 when her father Ernt comes home with one of his bright idea smiles and tells them he has been left a parcel of land from a deceased war buddy. The land is in Alaska. Leni’s parents share a passionate, tumultuous relationship. But her father Ernt has not been the same since his return, from the Vietnam War. These days he is always on edge, always bristling; he drank too much and had bad nightmares. The worst part was how quickly he angered, and how often he angered. Without the slightest provocation, especially when he drank, which he did, often.
But Ernt is convinced that things will be better in Alaska, the last frontier, free from the daily demands of civilization, free to live off the land and enjoy nature’s bounty.
I have lived in Ontario’s north country, well at least as far north as any road would take you at that time. An isolated post, the government called it. From there we flew further north still, into the native reserves and the magnificent, spell binding, haunting, silent beauty of the north land. Breathtaking and oh so deadly. I have laid under the summer stars and stood frozen, blinded by the winter landscape, kidnapped by the northern lights. Captive and amazed. Even now words fail me. Still I was seriously way south of places like Alaska.
It is really hard to put my finger on the magic that Hannah has created here but I’m going to try and I guess the best place to start is with her characters. I was first introduced to Hannah’s ability to flesh out characters when I read The Nightingale, so I should not have been so surprised at the talent on display here. Her people, the good and the bad, come alive on these pages and fixed themselves firmly in my minds eye. I loved Large Marge and was so positively crushed by Leni’s father Ernt that I found myself forgetting to breath when he was around. And there are more, not the least of which is Leni herself, bound by circumstance to a harsh, resplendent world and an untenable future. Both captivated by and victim to this unrelenting and unforgiving land and her parent’s toxic relationship.
I find myself thinking of Alaska as one her characters, it is such a big part of this story and Hannah’s ability to take me there both baffles and astounds. There is no one passage I find myself wanting to share to further demonstrate this skill, no it doesn’t lie in one or even a handful of passages. It is just there, hidden almost, behind every word, carved out over time and painted with slow, vivid strokes; cut on the very edge of the often lethal, always brutal and delicate artistry of nature’s awesome bounty and sweeping, panoramic vistas.
Oh my. I am far less than equal to the task of relating the awesome power of this novel. You will not want to miss it.
Five fully captivated stars.
As an added bonus Hannah had me pulling Robert Service (talk about an ode to the North) off my bookshelves and once again exploring his spells of the Yukon and other musings. It was like visiting with an old and trusted friend, one that helped inform my own poetic coming of age. Priceless!