In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature.
#1 New York Times Instant Bestseller (February 2018)
A People “Book of the Week”
Buzzfeed’s “Most Anticipated Women’s Fiction Reads of 2018”
Seattle Times’s “Books to Look Forward to in 2018”
Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter north where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Cora will do anything for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, has little choice but to go along, daring to hope this new land promises her family a better future.
In a wild, remote corner of Alaska, the Allbrights 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 newcomers’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates. 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Set in Alaska in the 1970s, The Great Alone is a riveting, suspenseful story about teenager Leni, whose troubled Vietnam-vet father decides to start over as a homesteader. When Apple Books interviewed best-selling author Kristin Hannah about her books, she told us that her top priority is creating characters who feel absolutely real—and that's what she's achieved here. As Leni and her mother’s existence becomes more and more perilous, we become increasingly invested in their well-being. With its vivid natural settings and wonderful depictions of a resilient, isolated community, Hannah’s novel is an immersive adventure.
Hannah's vivid depiction of a struggling family begins as a young father and POW returns from Vietnam, suffering from PTSD. The Allbright family, barely making ends meet in 1974, moves from Seattle to the untamed wilderness of Kaneq, Alaska, to claim a parcel of land left to Ernt by a slain Army buddy. Together with his wife, Cora, who spurned her middle-class parents to marry him, and their 13-year-old daughter, Leni, who barely remembers the adoring dad who's become so restless, Ernt is totally unprepared for the rigors of the family's new home. Soon, his fragile mental health and his relentless abuse of Cora worsen during the long nights of the family's first winter up north, even as the quirky and steely homesteaders around the Allbrights rally to help them. They intervene by forcing Ernt to leave in the winter to work on the newly started oil pipeline, but the added income and absences from Kaneq fail to fix his intractable paranoia and anger. Meanwhile, Leni finds friendship and love in a neighbor boy, Matthew, who is also a troubled survivor of a shattered family. Hannah skillfully situates the emotional family saga in the events and culture of the late '70s gas shortages, Watergate, Ted Bundy, Patty Hearst, and so on. But it's her tautly drawn characters Large Marge, Genny, Mad Earl, Tica, Tom who contribute not only to Leni's improbable survival but to her salvation amid her family's tragedy.
This is one of those rare books where the writing is so good that when you eventually force yourself to put the book down, the characters follow you throughout your day.
I’m not sure what is wrong with this novel. It’s probably me. I could not fall in love with it like The Nightingale. Or any of the other wonderful books she has written. I felt the story was somewhat forced, disjointed and then predictable. I did not feel the pity for the the parents in the story that I know she wanted us to. Wish I had enjoyed it.
Kristin Hannah at her very best in The Great Alone
The Great Alone is the latest novel by award winning author Kristin Hannah. As in all of her stories, the depth of research and understanding of her subject matter is amazing. The rich portrayal of her characters is perfection. And her underlying threads of PTSD and abuse of women, although shown back in time, are so incredibly relevant today.
This story is set in the mid 1970's to the latter 1980's. Leni Allbright is thirteen and a very lonely young lady. Her family's constant moving and lack of funds continues to make her the new girl and the poor girl in school. Although an avid reader and an interested student, moving so often makes school difficult. Leni's Vietnam POW veteran dad Ernt, once a skilled mechanic, has suffered so much he can no longer hold a job and they live on her dropout mom's waitress wages.
When out of the blue, Ernt receives a letter telling him that his best Army buddy, who their Vietnamese captors killed before Ernt's eyes, had left his cabin and forty acres near Homer, Alaska to him. Feeling this is the best thing that has ever happened to him, Ernt sells off their few belongings, gets a used VW bus, and packs up what they have left and heads north from Seattle to Alaska, the great alone.
When they arrive in the small town of Kaneq, the first person they meet is general store owner Large Marge, who is also a neighbor. But soon they have found something they never had before, friends and a community. On her first day at the one room schoolhouse Leni makes a friend of her own, 13 year old neighbor Matthew Walker. They have both waited their entire lives for a friend the same age.
As Ms. Hannah spins this very poignant coming of age story, she does so in a vast and desolate, yet picturesque landscape. The harshness of the setting reflects the unsettling depth of this story. The wildness of the land, the strength seen in so many of the characters, and the way they came together to take care of their own is a gripping tale that I did not want to put down. I wholeheartedly recommend this book!