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
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Wow!! This was a FANTASTIC novel. There’s no way anyone could have pried this book from my hands while I was reading it.
Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors and I am always excited when a new book is going to be released. When I found out that her new book, “The Great Alone” was set in Alaska in 1974 (the year I was born); I was itching to get reading.
As the book opens, we meet the Allbright family. Ernt, Cora, and their daughter, Leni. Thirteen year old, Leni is listening to her parents arguing. The terrible weather has brought out the darkness in him again. It hadn’t always been like this. Before the war they were happy. When he finally came home, Leni saw nothing of the laughing and handsome man she once knew. He had nightmares and trouble sleeping. He was moody and quick to anger….so very quick to anger.
It’s not just the Allbright family that’s struggling. Morale is at an all-time low and gas prices are at an all time high. The world is in crisis. People are scared with everything that’s been happening. Bombings, hijacked planes, and now college girls in Washington State have been disappearing. Danger is everywhere.
But then her dad comes home with his “Big Idea” smile. A friend who died in the war left him some property in Alaska. Her father is ecstatic. It’s a place where they can live a decent life…away from all of the madness. A simple life on land that they can live off…grow their own vegetables, hunt, and be free.
“I need this, Cora. I need a place where I can breathe again. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my skin. Up there, the flashbacks and shit will stop, I know it. We need this. We can go back to the way things were before ‘Nam screwed me up.”
He promises he’ll do better, that he’ll cut down on drinking. Leni has seen this all before but she won’t put up a fuss about moving again. She’ll do as she’s asked.
“Because that was what love was”
The trip to Alaska was almost like a family vacation. It was amazing and Leni was truly happy. Her dad even laughed and smiled. He was like he was “Before”. However, when they arrive in Kaneq, things are different from what they imagined. There’s a tiny cabin with a rotted deck, a yard full of old animal bones, and junk as far as the eye could see. No TV, no electricity, no running water. But Leni can handle all of that. She’ll make the best of it, especially if it helps her Dad.
“And he’ll be happy this time”
Two types of people come to Alaska, people who are running to something or running away from something. With no police station and no telephone service, Alaska gives new meaning to the word...Remote.
“Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next”
Most people are welcoming and helpful, though Leni wonders if some may not be so good for her father. People like Mad Earl and Clyde. “ Drinking whisky and eating hate” When they talk about what’s destroying America, when TSHTF, and “ The rich, riding on the backs of better men ” it makes Leni nervous.
The Allbright’s settle in and Leni starts to wonder if things might actually be okay. Unfortunately, it’s not long before she sees things haven’t changed. In fact, things seem to be getting worse.
Could the darkness and the danger in her home be more treacherous than the worst Alaskan winter?
Kristin Hannah has done it again!
I loved this book. An entertaining and emotional read with an engrossing plot and well-developed characters. I could almost feel the bitter cold from the long isolating winters. But I could also see the beauty of Alaska with its gorgeous mountains and blue skies.
Hope, love, and memory can keep you stuck. The 1970’s, a time when a woman still needed a man’s signature to get a credit card. The lack of understanding and assistance available. They called it “Gross Stress Reaction” or “ Battle Fatigue” back then… the horrible flashbacks and nightmares, the anxiety and anger, the inability to cope with regular life. Now it’s called PTSD post traumatic stress disorder or PTSI – post traumatic stress injury . Soldiers, who gave everything to the war, then came back to a world that many of them couldn’t function in, a world that didn’t know how to help them heal.
“The Great Alone” does not disappoint. This was another fascinating, thought-provoking, and captivating read. Heartbreaking at times... but there were also moments of great love and unbelievable kindness. A gripping story where I was desperate to know what was going to happen next. A bittersweet but satisfying ending topped off this amazing read.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.
Kristin Hannah wrote 70% of a novel and then 30% of a soap opera.
I know this isn't likely to be a popular opinion. Hannah is an incredibly popular writer whose books sell into the millions. This might be a case of "it's not you, it's me." The same problems I found in her sentinel work The Nightingale came back to haunt The Great Alone: weak female characters, use of death and tragedy as plot devises, and an overwrought, melodramatic narrative. People who liked Hannah's earlier work, will probably love this book. But if you've not been a fan in the past, don't expect much to change with this Alaskan tale.
The book starts when Leni Allbright is thirteen, awkward, and unable to fit in anywhere. It doesn't help that her parents are constantly moving her around the country. Her father, Ernt, is chasing that next big opportunity that will make him happy for good. Her mother, Cora, is hoping the next town will transform Ernt into the man he was before Vietnam. The Allbright family wind up in Alaska, in a cabin without pluming and electricity and far from any real civilization. When they arrive at the start of summer, Ernt is able to relax in the natural setting, and Cora and Leni think he might really return to how he was before the war. But as the days grow colder and the sun disappears from the sky, Ernt's demons come back with a vengeance.
Cora reminded me a lot of Vianne from The Nightingale, only with an abusive husband this time. Like her predecessor, she acts like a sad doormat the majority of the book until the moment she snaps out of character [spoilers removed]. Ernt is the usual abusive husband archetype-- drinking and beating and obsessing. One character I loved was Large Marge, who doesn't take any prisoners and doesn't suffer any fools. But I almost felt like making Marge an African-American in Alaska and obese gave her the "excuse" not to be yet another shrinking violet.
I actually quite liked the first 70% of the book. I was rooting for Leni, I enjoyed her friendship with Matthew, the understanding boy next homestead over, and I was waiting for Ernt's dangerous end-of-the-world prepping to come to a head. This book really brings Alaska and off-grid living to life. But then it all fell apart.
I feel like Hannah wanted to make her readers sad, so they would feel things, and isn't it a good book if it makes you cry? So lets kill off some characters. Heck, let's kill off all the characters! Teenage pregnancy? Sure, that's juicy stuff and very romantic. Wait, I killed off too many characters? There's a fix for that. Perfect bittersweet ending! The last hundred pages made me hate how much I enjoyed the first three hundred pages. I don't think I'll be picking up another Kristin Hannah book any time soon.
I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.
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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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⭐️
Alaska, 1974: This is the story of the trials and tribulations of the Allbright family. Life has not been easy for Ernt, Cora or their daughter Leni. Ernt is a POW, home from Vietnam. He is now prone to fits of anger and extreme violence. Ernt considers alcohol to be his savior – yet for his wife and daughter, it is the devil.
After coming home from the war, Ernt feels as though he doesn’t fit in anywhere and that everyone is against him. In an incredible turn of events, a home is bequeathed to Ernt in Kaneq, Alaska and he feels that it is has last chance. Wanting to make him happy and keep him calm, Cora and Leni agree. The move is one for which they are wholly unprepared. Winters are fierce, harsh and absolutely terrifying. There are only 6 hours of sunlight a day, and the conditions are dire.
The atmosphere and the wilderness however, give something to Leni Allbright that she has never had before, peace and solitude. If only it was enough. Cora is a woman who fell very hard for a man who treats her the way that no woman should ever be treated. Her family is trapped in a vicious cycle, one whose demons it seems impossible to out run, even after having reached the ends of the earth.
“The Great Alone” is a novel so full of beautiful, vivid descriptions that I could close eyes and see the land, the mountains, the water: the immense beauty that is Alaska - even though I have never been there before. The characters are captivating and rich. They made me so very anxious at times, I couldn’t help but clench my fists and hold on for dear life, yet they also made me love. “The Great Alone” is my first Kristin Hannah novel – it will not be my last.
This was Traveling Sister Read. The discussion for this book was very lively and full of emotion. I was glad to have my sisters close while I read it!
Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on NetGalley, Goodreads, Amazon and Twitter on 2.17.18.