Much like Alaska itself: alone at the top of the world, beautifully majestic, The Great Alone stands far above the rest in the book world. It probably seems like I’m giving everything outstanding reviews lately, but I’ve been really lucky to read incredible books this year. I’m actually thankful to know my constant reading hasn’t made me too jaded to appreciate a good book.
I have been waiting months for this book to become available on Overdrive, only to discover my oftentimes minuscule library actually had it! Now that I’ve read it (more like devoured it), even accidentally dropped a tear from my eye on a page, I don’t want to give it back. I have never felt this emotionally attached to a library book in my life! I know Leni, Matthew, Cora, Large Marge, Tom, along with the rest. Each one was painted with the clarity of Kristin Hannah’s words, and I feel as if they have become my family too. I can’t and don’t want to let them go. They are the type of characters to make my heart ache knowing they don’t actually exist in The Great Alone of Alaska.
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.
I have to be honest, I was mainly drawn to this book because of the word “alone” and the rugged landscape on the cover. I’m a hardcore introvert, a loner, recluse, hermit, and whatever other words used to describe someone who enjoys peace and quiet. I feel most alive in nature, doing simple tasks that connect me to the Earth. I like challenging myself mentally and physically and would like to think I could tough it out in extreme circumstances, living off the land. Sometimes I daydream about pulling a Henry David Thoreau and leaving the world behind for the wilderness (though a bit farther away from civilization than Thoreau managed). Obviously, this novel was going to be right up my alley, but even upon starting it, I couldn’t imagine how much I would enjoy it. It’s the type of book that makes all other books seem inferior and makes me judge reviewers giving less than the full five stars.
Though nature is a big theme in this story, I think the main theme is without a doubt about the love we experience as humans. Not all loves are created equally. Some loves are destructive and endlessly painful, while other loves bring out every kind of goodness we desire in life. The Great Alone drops readers headfirst into both loves, making us realize just how fine a line there is between love and hate.
My favorite love story was between Cora and Leni. The love and loyalty they showed one another was beautiful to behold. It was the type of relationship I can only imagine every mother desiring with her daughter, despite the ugliness they endured together. While some would consider Cora an irksome and weak character worth writing off, I couldn’t help but admire the strength Cora’s weak qualities brought out in Leni.
Before this moment, I have never finished the last page of a novel and wanted to flip right back to the beginning and start over again. I want this story to suck me in like Tom Riddle’s Diary (nerd alert), and never relinquish me. While reading, I felt cold, in Texas no less, when the harsh Alaskan winters were described, I felt my stomach rumble as the characters realized how little food and money they had left, I wanted to shoot one of the characters more than once because I was indescribably angry, I felt the literal pain of heartbreak, and even opened my mouth in the Taylor Swift-shocked-fashion more than once. I felt the highs and lows of every emotion and physical feeling reading this novel.
It sucked me in, heart and soul.
From this point forward, I will immediately reach for anything Kristin Hannah releases like my life depends upon it. Her writing prowess is otherworldly, with the ability to convey every emotion imaginable and feel as if I was living the events myself or watching the most immersive movie ever created. Having only read The Nightingale by her prior to The Great Alone, I knew this novel would be good, but I didn’t expect the desire to make my way through each of the 20+ novels she has written. So, tell me friends, which book of hers must I read next?
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