Format: Hardback (& eARC)
Source: Bought & Publisher
Read: March 2018
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.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an eARC for review – I ended up buying the hardback, too, since it’s Kristin Hannah and I can never wait to read her books!
I actually did put off reading this for a bit when I had the review copy and I don’t know why – I saw so many people speaking very highly of this book and so I went back and looked at the synopsis and when I read that it took place in Alaska, one of my favourite places, and that it was a family’s test of survival I had to dive in right away. I adore reading books about homesteading, so reading one that takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the last frontier, was exactly what I wanted.
What I wasn’t expecting was how majorly addicting this book would be! I’ve always loved Kristin Hannah’s writing but I feel like this was one of her most enthralling and anxiety-inducing books ever. I sat and read this story in large chunks but couldn’t read it right before I went to sleep because I couldn’t put it down! I didn’t realize that this was a story about a man changed, after returning from the Vietnam war, and the reader was to witness his complete deterioration into madness in “the great alone” – and taking his family down with him.
Man, oh, man … this book had my stomach in knots for the majority of the reading. There were parts that were so intense that I burst into tears and could physically feel my body shaking. Getting to the end of this book was like a test of keeping it together as a reader – I felt a huge weight lifted once I finished and felt like that bookish cliche, like I was letting out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. What I expected was a story about a family trying to make it in Alaska, maybe in over their heads, but I didn’t expect such an intense story that I literally had to put aside in order to read something else, just so I could sleep.
But while this story is intense in its family drama, it is also a gorgeous book about Alaska. I loved hearing about the landscapes, the vast amounts of untouched land, the beauty of this wild state that takes no prisoners, a place where you better be prepared to stay in because if you’re not, you could literally die. I visited Alaska about 10 years ago for my honeymoon and it was amazing to revisit the beauty of it, the mystery of it, and feel its pull. Kristin Hannah does such a great job of not only showing us the beauty, but also the dangers of such a place. This book shows not only how wild Alaska could be, but also the wildness within man.
And lastly, the characters! I adored Large Marge, Tom Walker, Leni, Matthew. I felt so frustrated by Cora, and by Ernst. Kristin Hannah wrote some great characters in this story and it was hard not to feel immense love for some and immense hate for others. Even Alaska is a character in itself. There are some really beautiful relationships, especially between women, and Kristin Hannah presents us with a community that would do anything to protect their own.
Honestly, I thought that Kristin Hannah hit it out of the park with The Nightingale but this book was absolutely amazing. The Great Alone is a book that you will not want to put down – trust me – and one that will leave you shaking afterwards. It’s intense, beautiful, dark, gripping, heartbreaking, and completely, completely addicting. Kristin Hannah’s writing is getting better and better and I can’t wait to see what she presents to us next.