THE GREAT ALONE

AUTHOR:  Kristin Hannah

GENRE:  Women’s Historical Fiction

Available @ AMAZON

REVIEWER:  Pistol Annie

RATING:   ***** 5 Stars *****

BOOK BLURB:

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 et 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, remove 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.  Son 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.

(Note:  I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.)

I am a huge fan of Kristin Hannah’s writing, and am rarely disappointed.  I didn’t think she could get any better than the story she wrote in The Nightingale – but I was wrong.  Once again from the historical women’s fiction genre, The Great Alone is a much different type story, but the writing is equal to that found in the aforementioned Nightingale.  Her latest masterpiece is an extraordinary story of women’s resilience.  A story of hardship and a family in crisis, and of the mother and daughter whose strength and survival, both mentally and physically, in the Alaskan wilderness is awe-inspiring.  But more than anything, it is a story of devotion and love.

The book blurb’s description is more than adequate in giving readers a view of what to expect, so I won’t add many details related directly to the plotline.  Just a heads-up that portions of the book relating to abuse may be a trigger for some readers.

Throughout the book, the author’s attention to detail is unmistakable.  Her ability to capture the emotions of the characters, along with the reality of their circumstances, grabbed at every emotion I could possibly experience.  I found the dialogue and mannerisms genuine and very well suited for each character’s station, and in keeping with the time period.  Readers will find a truly intoxicating story engaging readers by providing vivid detailed descriptions of the characters and events, along with interesting history of Alaska, that one feels they are experiencing everything right along with the characters.

A talented and creative writer, who is right on the mark as her words bring the story to life.  A complete package of entertaining and intriguing characters, both main and secondary, help make this a page-turner.  Even the landscape of Alaska becomes a living panorama.  When cold and blowing snow brings the temps to freezing, you’re certain to feel the chill in your bones.  And just as assuredly, the despair that Leni feels will become your despair as she wrestles between a love/hate relationship with her father.  And even though you’ll shake your head and call Coraline spineless, as you adamantly claim to never let yourself be treated the way Cora suffers at the hands of her husband, many wives did and still do – all in the name of love.  And you’ll reel from the degradation of it all.

Told from third person point of view, this story feels like it is divided into two separate parts.  The first part is difficult and emotional wreckage, as the Allbright family arrives in Alaska facing a harsh winter in a small cabin with very little cash in the till or food in the cupboards – and a man who may present more danger to his wife and child than starvation.  The second half followed with the coming of age for a young girl and focusing on an undying devotion and love between a mother and daughter.

Kristin Hannah does an excellent job capturing the reader’s attention from the first page and holding it solidly until the very last page.  At times this is an ugly story — heart-wrenching — yet full of life’s adventures and drama that will stay with you long after you finish reading. It would make an excellent selection for book clubs.

A tour de force in writing – and one I highly recommend.

4 Comments


  1. I just started it and your review makes me even more excited to read it!! The Nightingale is one of my all-time favorite books!

    Reply

    1. I hope you enjoy this Review as much as I did!

      Reply

      1. Thanks, 2shay! This was a really interesting and entertaining story — and I love Hannah’s writing.

        Reply

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