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 REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE
My Rating: 4/5 stars ★★★★
TRIGGER WARNINGS: alcohol abuse, domestic violence, violent death of animals
“Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I’ve got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place.”
I’ve had a fascination about Alaska (Particularly, living in Alaska) since I discovered Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer in high school and loved it. It’s an incredibly fascinating place so of course, reading about it is always fun. I picked this book up because I know it was a bestseller for awhile and it takes place in Alaska during the 1970s.
I’ve heard of Kristin Hannah before because of her most popular release, The Nightingale. People at work (I’m a bookseller) always tell me how much they love the Nightingale and how it’s the best book they’ve ever read. I haven’t read it yet but this one seemed a bit more interesting to me so I picked it up first. As Max said in his review, she makes Alaska feel like it’s own character.
I read both the physical copy and listened to the audiobook. The narration is done beautifully by Julia Whelan. I loved listening to the audiobook on my way home and back from work. It was captivating throughout the whole story, even if not much was going on. This isn’t just due to the narrator but of course, Kristin Hannah’s writing. Her writing is so enticing and lyrical.
Unfortunately, if her writing hadn’t been so beautiful, it would’ve been hard to make it through this book. Not much happened between page one up until about page 250. It wasn’t exactly boring but it wasn’t too exciting either. Things really started going at the 200 page mark but it was A LOT. Most of the shock value and climax is near the end of the book. Big things kept happening one after another in only such a short span of time. The book does skip ahead years which might be a reason for this but it felt like a lot.
I did cry reading this book which is weird because I haven’t gotten so emotional while reading in a long time. I think a lot of this has to due with the discussion of grief in this book. Leni, the main character, talks a lot about dealing with grief and dealing with her dad’s PTSD and his abusive behavior. As someone who understands domestic abuse and has seen it themselves, it was really hard watching her mom talk about how scared she was to leave him. This is why I included the trigger warnings in the review because for some people, this might be a lot.
Other than that, this was still a really great read. I didn’t hate it — I just didn’t love it. It was enticing, emotional, and overall a great story about life and everything that comes with it.
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