The Great Alone
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 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 unknownAt 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 Details

TitleThe Great Alone
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction

The Great Alone Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    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 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. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Deanna
    January 1, 1970
    My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr... 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 My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr... 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.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    *3.5 stars*When it comes to emotionally compelling fiction, without a doubt, Kristin Hannah is in a league of her own. Over the years, she’s taken me to the brink of hopelessness, dangled me over the edge of complete devastation and trampled my heart in the process. Where I think her magic lies is in knowing just the right moment to toss out a lifeline—restoring faith, inciting love and in some cases, leaving me in complete and utter awe.Naturally, having experienced a number of her noteworthy r *3.5 stars*When it comes to emotionally compelling fiction, without a doubt, Kristin Hannah is in a league of her own. Over the years, she’s taken me to the brink of hopelessness, dangled me over the edge of complete devastation and trampled my heart in the process. Where I think her magic lies is in knowing just the right moment to toss out a lifeline—restoring faith, inciting love and in some cases, leaving me in complete and utter awe.Naturally, having experienced a number of her noteworthy reads, there’s a certain level of expectation that now comes along with picking up one of her books—unrealistic or not. Instead of tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, I’m just going to get this over with and put it out there—this is not my favorite of Kristin Hannah’s work. Like many of her books, this is a hefty read, coming in at just under 450 pages. Where I had issues with the story—the inconsistent pacing and the blatant lack of development, particularly in the back half. From a slow and purposeful narrative, to an overly dramatic and rushed ending, it’s almost as if the author crammed two completely different books together.When the story opens, the Allbright family is on the brink of yet another move, this time to Alaska or The Great Alone. For Ernt, a Vietnam POW who's prone to bouts of anger, Alaska represents a fresh start and an excuse to leave behind the mess he’s made of things. For 13-year-old Leni and her mother, it’s a reluctant move, but one they hope will save Ernt from his demons. Luckily, the Allbrights meet a group of people who are more than willing to help them prepare for the harsh winter ahead and lend some much needed heart to a lackluster existence. What everyone soon learns, no matter how far you go, you can’t outrun your demons. It’s a toxic and vicious cycle they find themselves trapped in—one that feels impossible at times.Kristin Hannah really takes her time laying the foundation for the Allbright family and the tedious work the Alaskan wilderness demands and you know what, that was okay with me. It was around the halfway mark, when she switched gears, that everything came crashing down. There is a love story packed within these pages, although despite the anticipation, I found it all to be sort of lackluster. The words and the feelings were present on the page, demanding my consent, but I can’t say I ever truly felt their connection with every piece of my being. It's the last five chapters that take the cake for the most drama in the shortest timespan. I’m not saying I take issue with what went down exactly, what I am taking issue with is the fact that Kristin Hannah bounced from one dramatic event to the next, without so much as a breath or time to process. The emphasis seemed to be on getting her characters where they needed to be in the end, rather than allowing the reader to fully appreciate Leni's journey. With all of that said, I still found this to be a worthy read. I love the thought of living a simpler life—although probably not realistic for this city girl—and spending a bit of time in Alaska proved to be eye-opening and even sort of refreshing.As readers, we all connect with books/characters/writing for a variety of reasons and it just so happens, this one didn’t land among my favorites. Whether you’re a diehard Kristin Hannah fan, like I consider myself to be, or new to her work, I urge you to give this a chance. You never know, this might be your new favorite. I also feel compelled to mention, of her books, I adored these in particular: Home Front, Night Road, Winter Garden and The Nightingale.*A HUGE thank you to St. Martin’s Press for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • abby
    January 1, 1970
    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 probabl 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 (view spoiler)[and murders someone (hide spoiler)]. 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.
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    “Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear; With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold, A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold; While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? — Then you've a hunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars. “ ( From The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert “Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear; With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold, A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold; While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? — Then you've a hunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars. “ ( From The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service) It's to the wilderness of Alaska, this "Great Alone", a most fitting description, that Leni Allbright and her parents go, seeking yet another place that her mother hoped would be the place that made her dad happy. Kristin Hannah with vivid descriptions takes the reader here and while I've never been to Alaska, I certainly felt as though I was. Ernt Allbright, a POW who returned home from Vietnam a very different man could never keep a job and moved his family from place to place, clearly suffers from PTSD. It isn't until they move to Alaska that 13 year old Leni , realizes just how bad things are and the imminent danger in their lives. I couldn't help but love Leni. She's wise for her age recognizing what might set off her father's rage. As she grows and her character develops, into a strong , amazing woman in spite of all the tragedy and heartache, I loved her even more. My favorite passage is from Leni's college application several years later: "Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I've got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place. I read about places I can barely imagine and lose myself to journeys to foreign lands to save girls who didn't know they were really princesses. Only recently have I learned why I needed those faraway worlds." Leni has a loving bond with her mother and together they try to survive this place with the freezing, treacherous, winters and the most terrifying of dangers that they face within the cabin where they live - the mental instability, the volatility combined with alcohol, and violence of her father as he wreaks havoc in their lives and the people of the town. It is the friendships that Leni and Cora make with a fabulous cast of characters that help them survive it all. Large Marge was my favorite but I also loved Matthew who was the only friend Leni could remember having in her life. This is more than a coming of age story. It’s about the reality of post war PTSD, the awful reality of spousal abuse, about the sense of community, of belonging, about survival not just in the wilderness of Alaska but in life in with challenges that seem insurmountable. I don't often cry when reading a book, but this was one of the times. It's gripping, gritty, heartbreaking and hopeful and illustrates the versatile storytelling of Kristin Hannah. It was impossible for me to forgive Ernt, even knowing that he was a POW, but he brought to mind the POW's bracelet I wore for a long time. I remember his name but out of privacy and respect for him, I won’t mention it here . I’ll only say that he was captured in 1971 and thankfully released in 1973. This book prompted me to search for him online. It appears that he stayed in the Army and then after retirement went on to the private sector. I hope he has had a peaceful, happy life. I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin's Press through NetGalley.
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  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    This is my first read by Kristin Hannah and I adored it. Set in the 1970s, it is about Ernt Allbright, a man who returns home to Seattle after being a POW in the Vietnam War. He is now a changed man, suffering sleepless nights, flashbacks, nightmares and volatile in his behaviour. PTSD was an undiagnosed condition at the time but it ravaged Ernt's life and that of his wife, Cora, and his 13 year old daughter, Leni. The Allbright family used to have good times, but now Leni hears the fights and c This is my first read by Kristin Hannah and I adored it. Set in the 1970s, it is about Ernt Allbright, a man who returns home to Seattle after being a POW in the Vietnam War. He is now a changed man, suffering sleepless nights, flashbacks, nightmares and volatile in his behaviour. PTSD was an undiagnosed condition at the time but it ravaged Ernt's life and that of his wife, Cora, and his 13 year old daughter, Leni. The Allbright family used to have good times, but now Leni hears the fights and conflict between her parents. Ernt struggles to hold down a job and their moves makes Leni long for a sense of stability. When Ernt inherits a cabin and land in Alaska from a dead soldier, he pleads with Cora that this will be the making of him and them, they could live off the land and be free of the pressures that they have been living under. Driven by this hope, they sell up and buy a rickety old VW van and set off for their adventure in The Great Alone, having little idea as to what awaits them and just how ill prepared they are for it. Alaska takes no prisoners, it has a majestic, harsh, awe inspiring beauty but its wilderness and wildlife is a cruel and unforgiving testing ground for those who make their home there.The Allbrights arrive in remote Kaneq, Alaska, shocked by the state of the tiny dilapidated cabin and taken aback by all that needs doing and facing a desperately steep learning curve. Without the small community rallying together to help the family they would not survive the bitter, brutal Alaskan winter and the hardships that are to follow. They stock up on supplies, working the land in preparation. However, Ernt's condition worsens, exacerbated by alcohol. He takes out his rage and temper on Cora and the tiny home becomes a place of darkness and domestic violence. Leni learns to read the signs and triggers that foretell when Ernt is going to lose it and you cannot help but feel for her and Cora. Mother and daughter have a close relationship giving them the emotional strength to endure the unbearable. Leni finds solace in books, something I completely understand and relate to. She forms her first friendship with Matthew and begins to grow roots in the community. The community prove to be an invaluable support to Cora and Leni such as the inimitable and capable Marge and Tom Walker. The angry Earl rails against the injustices of life, politics and institutions, grieving over the loss of his son. As the years go by, Leni is changed and shaped by the tragedies and hearbreak she faces, Kristin Hannah has written a beautifully detailed and emotionally affecting novel that is both compelling and gripping. She captures the twin threats posed the Alaskan environment and the home ripped asunder by the dangerous Ernt. Hannah's greatest achievement though is the characters she creates and the in depth development that takes place. This is Leni's story, the burdens she grows up with, her emotional bond with her mother, and her search for identity and roots. Its a a tale of love and hope despite the battering that life can give. It is remarkably instructive on the cost, consequences and damage of war on families and the suffering that ensues. A brilliant read that I will not forget and recommend highly. Many thanks to St Martin's Press for an ARC.
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  • KAS
    January 1, 1970
    One thing is for sure, Kristin Hannah, hands down, is a talented author who can weave a tale. I have read many of her previous novels and always found them to be beautiful and thought provoking. This one, however, rubbed me the wrong way.Forewarning: This storyline deals with a lot of heavy issues, the most serious and horrific, physical abuse. I am trying my best to keep spoilers out of this review.Just so you know where my thoughts are coming from, I am the wife of a twenty-seven year military One thing is for sure, Kristin Hannah, hands down, is a talented author who can weave a tale. I have read many of her previous novels and always found them to be beautiful and thought provoking. This one, however, rubbed me the wrong way.Forewarning: This storyline deals with a lot of heavy issues, the most serious and horrific, physical abuse. I am trying my best to keep spoilers out of this review.Just so you know where my thoughts are coming from, I am the wife of a twenty-seven year military veteran, and I initially connected with this story and my heart ached for the family whose lives were changed forever due to the traumas of war, but then I became perplexed and then disturbed with where the storyline was heading, especially regarding the actions of the father, named Ernt. In a manner of speaking, I wasn’t buying what was being sold. The “explanation” of his actions, one in particular, which he committed over and over again, wasn’t resonating with me at all.The BEFORE “Nam screwed him up” excuse Ernt’s wife invariably gave, wasn’t cutting it. Numerous times the wife would say to their daughter ”I wish you remembered him from before.” Yes, we are told Ernt was a Vietnam POW; he doesn’t do well in the darkness; he suffers severely from nightmares and flashbacks. Yes, he drinks way too much. But to basically make the case his ‘PTSD’ turned him into the monster he became, did not sit well with me. It never made any sense to me why Ernt’s actual thoughts were never revealed, only that his wife and daughter could see something was brewing in his eyes. He acted out in horrible ways and then apologized profusely, time and time again.As a side note - nowhere, in this author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book, did she thank a psychologist/psychiatrist who deals with patients with PTSD for his or her expertise. I take that to mean she didn’t seek out their input, but I could be wrong.Sorry if this sounds more like a rant than a review :(There are thousands of 4-5 star ratings for this book, and I definitely understand why. The writing is flawless, the descriptions breathtaking, and as one would expect from Kristin Hannah and as I already stated, she can weave a story like few others. I am certainly in the minority only giving 2 stars.MAYBE if I wasn’t the wife of a military vet, who unfortunately saw more than his fair share of war, and maybe if I didn’t relate to many of the issues Ernt was dealing with ...... maybe I would have given this a much higher rating.Your experience with this book will most likely be totally different from mine, so I urge you to read the 5 star reviews. I will definitely continue to read Ms. Hannah’s future releases!
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    Kristin Hannah fans will be more than satisfied!!! I found the story a little predictable- and not all characters as layered as I would have liked, yet the sincerity in which Kristin wrote this novel is admirable and beautiful....with much to respect for taking on these serious themes. Kristin’s heart and passion is mixed between all her words on every page. The writing flows with emotional intimacy.This story is told through the eyes of Leni, daughter of a former Vietnam POW. Leni, an only chil Kristin Hannah fans will be more than satisfied!!! I found the story a little predictable- and not all characters as layered as I would have liked, yet the sincerity in which Kristin wrote this novel is admirable and beautiful....with much to respect for taking on these serious themes. Kristin’s heart and passion is mixed between all her words on every page. The writing flows with emotional intimacy.This story is told through the eyes of Leni, daughter of a former Vietnam POW. Leni, an only child, had gone to four new schools in five years during her early pre- and teen years. She didn’t make friends easy - or at all - at these new schools- and she worried about her parents constantly.Ernt and Cora, Leni’s parents, were often fighting. Vietnam changed her Ernt. He returned home moody, quick to anger, and distant. Cora was engaged in a continual quest to find herself — taking spiritual workshops and human potential courses. Sure- when you’re hurting - seeking help and support makes sense. It’s tough for a young girl who feels they are - at times- the only ‘mature’ adult in the family. Leni was only 13- and never had time to act out as a normal teenager. The conditions of their family were just always much too fragile....to inhumane. Things were especially hard on Leni’s mom, Cora. Leni felt very attached and protective of her mom - bringing them close - questionable if their closeness was always the best thing - or if boundaries between parent and child got crossed— however they experienced a type of trauma together neither should have had to experience. And in cases of emergency/ traumas- close is close is close: period! Leni says: “One thing every child of a POW knew was how easily people could be broken”. ......and broken - and broken and broken again! We are witness to tragedies.....while getting to know Leni - her family - the community - (neighbor Large Marge is a standout character), Matthew, and life in Alaska. Abusive family secrets weigh heavily - innocence is robbed - leaving an urgency for survival. The Vietnam War divided our country.... The 70s were turbulent times: Many of us old farts remember them all too well —“Full of protests and marches and bombing and kidnappings. Young women were being abducted from college campuses”. —-The 70’s - were confusing years for many. Dad, Ernt, was suffering from PTSD- had lost his job -was offered an opportunity in Alaska - a cabin to live in. Alaska seemed like a ‘hopeful solution’ for the Allbright family, but our author clearly reminds us that “ Life is ‘not’ circumstantial”.Funny, how life works - isn’t it?—we bring ourselves with us no matter where we go - our problems tag along. They don’t go away simply by changing locations. Leni is wise beyond her years: she had to be! Alaska, .....exquisite, breathtaking, and beautiful, is where Leni found love - lost love -created love - and grew stronger in who she is. And.....Alaska is where she came to feel most at home. I especially need to thank Saint Martin’s Publishing .... I receive a ‘surprise’ finished Hardback copy of “The Great Alone” in my mailbox. The book cover is gorgeous- Many thanks to Kristin Hannah too.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, man, this book.In 1974, the world was turned upside-down, what with Vietnam, the gas crisis, Watergate, and so much more to cause people to feel unsettled. Thirteen-year-old Leni Allbright knew these feelings all too well, but more because her father, Ernt, a Vietnam POW, has never quite been the same since he returned from being captured during the war. Leni watches the almost all-consuming love her parents have for each other, which is exacerbated by the times when her father "just isn't Oh, man, this book.In 1974, the world was turned upside-down, what with Vietnam, the gas crisis, Watergate, and so much more to cause people to feel unsettled. Thirteen-year-old Leni Allbright knew these feelings all too well, but more because her father, Ernt, a Vietnam POW, has never quite been the same since he returned from being captured during the war. Leni watches the almost all-consuming love her parents have for each other, which is exacerbated by the times when her father "just isn't right," suffering nightmares, mood swings, and violent rages which have caused them to pick up and move several times over the last several years."One thing every child of a POW knew was how easily people could be broken."After Ernt loses another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he is going to move his family to a small town in Alaska, and settle on some land left to him by a fellow soldier. The thought of moving somewhere so remote, so dangerous, so unknown, is tremendously frightening, but Leni's mother, Cora, has never abandoned her husband no matter what he has done, so she's willing to follow him into the wilderness, in the hopes this may be the fresh start he needs.When they arrive, they are all bewitched by the immense beauty of Alaska in summer—the vivid colors, the sounds of animals they had never seen in person before, the feel of living off the land. Yet they know that winter is not that far away, and they've heard that many people don't even survive one winter in Alaska. With limited money and supplies, they prepare as best they can, but they are buoyed by the generosity of the community they've moved into, despite Ernt's resentment that others are providing for his family."Alaska isn't about who you were when you headed this way. It's about who you become. You are out here in the wild, girls. That isn't some fable or fairy tale. It's real. Hard. Winter will be here soon, and believe me, it's not like any winter you've ever experienced. It will cull the herd, and fast. You need to know how to survive."Winter pushes the Allbrights to their limits, and Ernt's mental state begins to deteriorate more and more. Leni realizes that her father is dangerous and she can't understand why her mother continues to stay with him, to even provoke his moods somewhat, and yet refuse to leave when things get bad. And they get bad, with increasing frequency. But Leni knows that she cannot leave her mother, or she might not be able to save her.As Leni gets older, she becomes less forgiving of her father's moods and her mother's refusal to help them escape. When the community's residents get divided between those who want to see change and modernity brought to the wilderness, and those who prefer living off the grid and fending for themselves, Ernt's resentment grows, drawing his entire family into a dangerous struggle, one from which escape is becoming increasingly unlikely.The Great Alone is the story of survival, not just in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, but within your own lives. It's a book about confronting your fears and realizing how strong you are, of feeling the need to protect those you love from pain or hurt no matter what the sacrifices you must make in exchange, and how the things we most want to say are the hardest to verbalize. This is a book about courage, the power of love and friendship, and an unshakable bond between parent and child.I've never read any of Kristin Hannah's books before, and I don't know why that's the case, but this book blew me away. The story is tremendously compelling, and even though it has familiar elements, Hannah's storytelling made it feel fresh. There is such a poignancy in this book, and I'm not ashamed to say it wrecked me emotionally at times, but I kept reading and reading and just couldn't stop. Thanks to a cold, rainy Sunday, I read the entire book in one day, but now I'm sad it's over.Is this predictable? Perhaps a bit. But this is an exceptional story populated by complex, fascinating characters and vivid imagery that made you feel you were experiencing the beauty and harshness of Alaska. Boy, did I love this."In the vast expanse of this unpredictable wilderness, you will either become your best self and flourish, or you will run away, screaming, from the dark and the cold and the hardship. There is no middle ground, no safe place; not here, in the Great Alone."I have four words for you: Read this book now.See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    Book coincidences. I always read multiple books at the same time, always have. So, I was reading History of Wolves, and because I had paper Arcs of both books and wanted to pass them on, I also started this one. Both deal with the trauma of war, but this one was set in Alaska, and I love books set in cold climates. It is the seventies and Ernt, who came back much changed from Vietnam, can't seem to settle. Moving his small family from place to place, until he is left a small cabin in Alaska, fro Book coincidences. I always read multiple books at the same time, always have. So, I was reading History of Wolves, and because I had paper Arcs of both books and wanted to pass them on, I also started this one. Both deal with the trauma of war, but this one was set in Alaska, and I love books set in cold climates. It is the seventies and Ernt, who came back much changed from Vietnam, can't seem to settle. Moving his small family from place to place, until he is left a small cabin in Alaska, from a buddy who served with him. So off they go, very unprepared for the hardness and danger that Alaska presents. Cora, who loves and will do anything for her husband and their young teenage daughter, Leni.Some fabulous characters, fantastic setting, and some extremely challenging issues. I never felt sorry for Ernt, despite what he went through, he was not a very nice man. That is an understatement, spousal abuse to me is inexcusable, the effects on a young Leni, just terrible. There are many people they meet in Alaska that were loving and helpful, Leni starts a relationship and then tragedy strikes again. This story really pulled me in, couldn't look away, and yes the ending may be a bit treacly but let's just say some of these characters deserved some happiness. Enjoyed watching and learning as they learned to survive in Alaska, made friends and found stolen moments of joy. Yes, this made me teary up more than once, and I have to say everyone could use a guardian angel like Large Marge.ARC from publisher.
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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    OH BOY. ALASKA. THE GREAT ALONE. KRISTIN HANNAH grabbed my attention from the get-go with her freaky cold (Brrrrrrrr) descriptively atmospheric novel set in a remote 1970's Alaska where "you can make one mistake, but the second one will kill you"......literally. THE FIRST HALF of the story introduces the reader to the Allbright family and the shock of their unimaginably dangerous and unpredictable new life in the wild.LIVING ROUGH (Yikes!) in their inherited little cabin, they must haul water, g OH BOY. ALASKA. THE GREAT ALONE. KRISTIN HANNAH grabbed my attention from the get-go with her freaky cold (Brrrrrrrr) descriptively atmospheric novel set in a remote 1970's Alaska where "you can make one mistake, but the second one will kill you"......literally. THE FIRST HALF of the story introduces the reader to the Allbright family and the shock of their unimaginably dangerous and unpredictable new life in the wild.LIVING ROUGH (Yikes!) in their inherited little cabin, they must haul water, grow their own vegetables, and hunt for food....all while armed and on the lookout for black bears and wolf packs....AND with only three months each year to prepare for the long, dark and treacherous winter months to come. BUT....harsh weather conditions, isolation and "icy darkness" is NOT their only fear....there is another. "People go batshit in the dark." THE GREAT ALONE has something for everyone....engaging writing....suspense....adventure and great characters with names like MAD Earl, LARGE Marge and ha!....CRAZY Pete & Matilda. THERE IS also more than one story of love here, volatile family relationships, and invaluable friendships amidst the environmental dangers. THE GREAT ALONE is written with heart and heartbreak with an emphasis on survival....in more ways than one! MANY THANKS once again to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the ARC (coming February, 2018) in exchange for an honest review. Another winner for KRISTIN HANNAH!
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  • Susanne Strong
    January 1, 1970
    4 Stars.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 bequeat 4 Stars.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.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    Like a curved, upturned palm, Alaska beckons with her beauty, her majesty, and her prolific grandeur. The awe-inspiring allure gestures first until the ruggedness of her backbone sets in.The Allbright family lives on the edge of a nomad's existence. Seattle, once filled with promise, no longer does. It's 1974 and these displaced individuals are the walking wounded. Ernt bears the mental and physical scars of being a prisoner of war held in Vietnam. The nightmares are no longer wrapped in the dar Like a curved, upturned palm, Alaska beckons with her beauty, her majesty, and her prolific grandeur. The awe-inspiring allure gestures first until the ruggedness of her backbone sets in.The Allbright family lives on the edge of a nomad's existence. Seattle, once filled with promise, no longer does. It's 1974 and these displaced individuals are the walking wounded. Ernt bears the mental and physical scars of being a prisoner of war held in Vietnam. The nightmares are no longer wrapped in the darkness. They seep into the day and explode without warning. Cora, his wife, flits back and forth with her feeble attempts to sidestep his abusive behavior. And caught in the throws of this disfunction is thirteen year old Leni. Her silence lays a mantle over the brokenness.Ernt receives a letter from the father of his best friend who was killed in Vietnam. Earl Harlan tells Ernt that Bo left a sizable plot of land and a cabin to him in Kaneq, Alaska. It's his for the taking. Ernt whoops with joy and begins to sell everything they have for a beat-up VW bus in order to make the journey. Cora sees the face of the love she long remembered from before the war. Perhaps this is the new beginning that they are so desperate for. And Leni just yearns for a place of permanence for once in her young life.With hardly a plan or adequate preparation, the Allbrights find themselves in the jaw-dropping majesty of the Alaskan wilderness. With the help of Mad Earl's family and the resourceful Marge Birdsall, also known as Large Marge, the Allbrights cut into the land and start to dig in. Like the famous line from Game of Thrones: "Winter is coming." Tremendous effort must be put forth in order to exist through the brutality of an Alaskan winter."Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next."Filled with grizzly bear, caribou, wolves, and enormous moose, danger is around every turn. But our story brushes against more than Nature......human nature to be exact. Ernt begins to resent his new neighbors as the darkness within him takes hold once again. And once again, Cora invents excuses for Ernt's behavior until she begins to believe it all herself. She and Leni hardly breathe in the confines of that tiny cabin. Kristin Hannah creates a storyline that lays bare the tragedies of war, broken families, unfulfilled dreams, and the explosive side of a dormant wound. Her characterizations are remarkable as life unravels from 1974 to 1986. We will experience the dramatic changes that take place within Leni as she shields herself from the rages that exist within as well as those from the treacherous land itself. Kristin Hannah writes from a source of profound respect for the individuals who ramble down the uneven terrain of life. Her words will invoke a gamut of feelings within you as you leave your own footprints behind. A remarkable read, indeed, and so worthy of your attention.I received a copy of The Great Alone through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and to Kristin Hannah for the opportunity.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    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 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⭐️
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a 2018 St. Main’s Press publication. Alaska- beautiful, harsh, dangerous, addictive-After Ernst comes home from Vietnam, he flounders, suffering from what we would now term, PTSD. His wife, Cora, sees a much different man in front of her than the one she married. But, she is determined to help him, and so when he inherits a home in Alaska, she and their thirteen -year old daughter, Leni, follow him into unchartered territory. As they begin their journey they The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a 2018 St. Main’s Press publication. Alaska- beautiful, harsh, dangerous, addictive-After Ernst comes home from Vietnam, he flounders, suffering from what we would now term, PTSD. His wife, Cora, sees a much different man in front of her than the one she married. But, she is determined to help him, and so when he inherits a home in Alaska, she and their thirteen -year old daughter, Leni, follow him into unchartered territory. As they begin their journey they are filled with renewed hope and optimism, but simmering underneath that forced enthusiasm, is a great deal of nervousness and trepidation. However, they could not have possibly prepared themselves for living ‘off grid’, in this raw, startlingly beautiful landscape, which is sharply juxtaposed against the harsh, brutal winters, the intensity of mother nature, and the terrifying odds of surviving in such extreme isolation. Yet for Cora and Leni, the danger that lurks around every corner, is within the confines of their own four walls. As a voracious reader, I am always surprised by how many amazing books and authors I have yet to sample. I have three or four Kristin Hannah novels languishing on my bookshelves that I am always meaning to read. I have heard such great things about this author, and of course, she was catapulted into the ‘household name’ club with her knock out hit- ‘The Nightingale” a couple of years back. Anyway, long story short, I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, which, of course, meant I had to read it and then review it, which is how this book, despite countless others to choose from, became my first Kristin Hannah novel. I started this book a very long time ago, with the best of intentions of reading it prior to the release date, but became very frustrated with it almost immediately. As the awesome reviews began to trickle in, I started to get a little nervous. I wasn’t feeling it. So, I put it aside for a while. I ended up reading this novel in fits and starts until I got tired of seeing it on my bedside table, and decided to plow through until the end, whether I wanted to or not. The subject matter is very difficult to read about, and Hannah doesn’t hold back in her depictions of abuse. It is very graphic, and I admit, as much as I enjoy a good dark and twisted tale, there are some topics I just can’t take, domestic violence being one of them. The taut atmosphere, being completely isolated, living in a cabin out in the middle of such extremes, with no one to call for help, never knowing when the next explosive confrontation would come, made this a hard book for me to consume in large quantities. It was just too nerve wracking and intense. I started to dread turning the next page. Growing up in an era where women fought to bring these subjects out in the open, to educate the public on the patterns of abuse, I still argued with myself over Cora’s decisions to stay with Ernst. If not for herself, for her daughter!! I know, I know, Cora exhibited the classic, textbook cycle of abuse. However, I still can’t quite get past subjecting her child to that environment. Don’t judge me. I still think I’m right, although, on paper, I ‘get’ the psychology of it all. But, Leni deserved better than that. Therefore, I found myself running that loop in my head, chiding myself for judging, but unapologetic for my feelings, and ended up getting myself all upset and stressed out, as a result. But, moving on- This is not the only problem I had with the book. Please everyone in the US. Look up 911. Learn the history of it. It was around, but not common, even in big cities. We take it for granted now, so this might not have registered, but in the early seventies, calling 911 was not a thing. I also noticed a few other gaffes, like Cora smoking on her last cigarette, only to miraculously have a fresh supply the very next morning. I’m no expert on PTSD, and I am not making light of it, nor am I suggesting Ernst didn’t suffer from it. He did have many of the hallmark symptoms, but frankly, I’m not sure you can blame ALL his behavior on that. His was classic abusive behavior, and I suspect it might have developed no matter what. Cora was so young when she married, and I think she mythologized the ‘before and after’ scenario to make excuses to stay in the marriage, claiming her husband was ‘sick’. Oh, he was sick, all right, but not only from the effects of the war. This was all swirling around in my head as I embarked on the second half of the book. It was dark, intense, edgy, suspenseful, but not in a way I normally like. In fact, it was downright depressing. But, then a miracle happened- The wrinkles ironed out a little, and I was able to focus on Leni and Matthew, which was the story’s saving grace. I ended up liking the way everything turned out, even though it was sad on so many levels. While I had been turning and tossing and fretting over this review, worrying about this 'critical' kick I’ve been experiencing lately, as I turned the last page, I had an epiphany! It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was experiencing many of the same emotions I normally feel after reading a romance novel. Then I remembered that, Hannah has also been known for her women’s fiction, which usually tends to include a little romance. This quote- “She knew fact from fiction but couldn’t give up her love stories. They made her feel as if women could be in control of their own destinies. Even in a cruel, dark world that tested women to the very limits of their endurance, the heroines of these novels could prevail and find true love.”OMG!! This is an epic LOVE STORY!! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. OMG!! All this time I was focused on Alaska, the landscape, the environment, the seventies, the domestic violence, the PTSD, all the points everyone spoke of in all the reviews I’d read. Love is mentioned a lot too, the mother/daughter bond, the friendships, but no one wanted to say anything about THE LOVE STORY!! No one wanted to hint around that there is romance in this story, but....Leni was tested to the brink of her endurance, yet she prevailed and found true love and despite everything she gets her happily ever after!! It’s romance 101!!!!!!!!!!!!!PERFECT!! And that, my fine friends why I read love stories. Seriously though, please, stop saying you don’t like romance, or love stories, because, yes, yes you do! It just had to be labeled as something else, so you didn’t realize that’s what you’ve been reading all along- An EPIC love story!! Leni and Matthew! Belonging, finding your tribe,family, separations, hardships, endurance, survival against all odds, true love, and happy ever afters!! Yep! It’s all there. All the elements of a great love story! No, it is certainly not a warm and fuzzy, heartwarming story, that’s for sure, But, it is highly emotional, sentimental, redeeming, and so very satisfying.‘Her’ If Matthew didn't melt your heart, check your pulse, because you might be dead. And, of course, no one deserved that HEA more than Leni!! Sure, of course, it's not JUST a love story, as I've made clear at the beginning of this review, but at the end of the day, after all is said and done, that's the part of story that endures, the part that burrowed into my heart. So, Kristin Hannah did what she does best, apparently, and pulled off a NYT bestseller, to boot. Kudos! I do understand the homage to Alaska, all of which was described beautifully. I do ‘get’ the importance of the story, the messages embedded within, and appreciated the characterizations, especially that of the supporting cast, the pacing and all the other spectacular parts of this book that resonated with so many people, not just the parts that made an impression on me. But, there were some warts and flaws, and I think maybe the author skimmed over the research she should have done, which is why I can’t in good conscience give it a five star rating, although I am tempted to. Still, I am SO glad, despite the initial emotional drain, that I eventually finished it. It turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding read. These characters will pass through my thoughts on many occasions in the future and I will wonder how they are doing from time to time, but I know they are going to make it just fine!! 4 stars
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  • Arah-Lynda
    January 1, 1970
    There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;It’s luring me on as of old;Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wantingSo much as finding the gold.It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,It’s the forests where silence has lease;It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,It’s the stillness that fills me with peace. Robert ServiceThis book got me to thinking about why I read and at times it would seem I have as many answers as there are moments to consider them..For me I guess it all began when I There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;It’s luring me on as of old;Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wantingSo much as finding the gold.It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,It’s the forests where silence has lease;It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,It’s the stillness that fills me with peace. Robert ServiceThis book got me to thinking about why I read and at times it would seem I have as many answers as there are moments to consider them..For me I guess it all began when I was a child. Back then I read to escape. To slip silently, unnoticed, away from the here and now. Well now Kristin Hannah took me to Alaska and I loved every moment I spent with her, within The Great Alone. As the story opens we meet the Allbright family. Leni is but thirteen in 1974 when her father Ernt comes home with one of his bright idea smiles and tells them he has been left a parcel of land from a deceased war buddy. The land is in Alaska. Leni’s parents share a passionate, tumultuous relationship. But her father Ernt has not been the same since his return, from the Vietnam War. These days he is always on edge, always bristling; he drank too much and had bad nightmares. The worst part was how quickly he angered, and how often he angered. Without the slightest provocation, especially when he drank, which he did, often.But Ernt is convinced that things will be better in Alaska, the last frontier, free from the daily demands of civilization, free to live off the land and enjoy nature’s bounty.I have lived in Ontario’s north country, well at least as far north as any road would take you at that time. An isolated post, the government called it. From there we flew further north still, into the native reserves and the magnificent, spell binding, haunting, silent beauty of the north land. Breathtaking and oh so deadly. I have laid under the summer stars and stood frozen, blinded by the winter landscape, kidnapped by the northern lights. Captive and amazed. Even now words fail me. Still I was seriously way south of places like Alaska.It is really hard to put my finger on the magic that Hannah has created here but I’m going to try and I guess the best place to start is with her characters. I was first introduced to Hannah’s ability to flesh out characters when I read The Nightingale, so I should not have been so surprised at the talent on display here. Her people, the good and the bad, come alive on these pages and fixed themselves firmly in my minds eye. I loved Large Marge and was so positively crushed by Leni’s father Ernt that I found myself forgetting to breath when he was around. And there are more, not the least of which is Leni herself, bound by circumstance to a harsh, resplendent world and an untenable future. Both captivated by and victim to this unrelenting and unforgiving land and her parent’s toxic relationship. I find myself thinking of Alaska as one her characters, it is such a big part of this story and Hannah’s ability to take me there both baffles and astounds. There is no one passage I find myself wanting to share to further demonstrate this skill, no it doesn’t lie in one or even a handful of passages. It is just there, hidden almost, behind every word, carved out over time and painted with slow, vivid strokes; cut on the very edge of the often lethal, always brutal and delicate artistry of nature’s awesome bounty and sweeping, panoramic vistas. Oh my. I am far less than equal to the task of relating the awesome power of this novel. You will not want to miss it. Wow, respect.Five fully captivated stars. PssssssssssssssstAs an added bonus Hannah had me pulling Robert Service (talk about an ode to the North) off my bookshelves and once again exploring his spells of the Yukon and other musings. It was like visiting with an old and trusted friend, one that helped inform my own poetic coming of age. Priceless!
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  • Norma * Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    *4.5 stars* rounded up for The Great Alone!THE GREAT ALONE by KRISTIN HANNAH is an absolutely wonderful, spellbinding, powerful, tense, touching, and heartbreaking domestic family drama story that was an all-consuming and emotional read for me.  I was totally captivated with what I was reading and it was extremely hard for me to put down.  I couldn’t think of anything else but this story and I don’t think I have felt so many different emotions from reading a book in quite some time. The way that *4.5 stars* rounded up for The Great Alone!THE GREAT ALONE by KRISTIN HANNAH is an absolutely wonderful, spellbinding, powerful, tense, touching, and heartbreaking domestic family drama story that was an all-consuming and emotional read for me.  I was totally captivated with what I was reading and it was extremely hard for me to put down.  I couldn’t think of anything else but this story and I don’t think I have felt so many different emotions from reading a book in quite some time. The way that The Great Alone made me feel is exactly how I like to feel when reading a book!  KRISTIN HANNAH delivers an impressive, well-written and beautifully descriptive story here that takes you on an emotional adventure of the Allbright family which is set in remote Alaska in the 1970’s.  I fell in love with the character of Leni and genuinely cared for her and her wellbeing throughout this whole novel.  The storyline was so engaging, the characters are all so well-developed, the setting was absolutely fantastic and the ending was bittersweet but satisfying.  Highly recommend!Published: February 6th, 2018Thank you so much to my fellow Traveling Sisters for another wonderful reading experience!Thank you so much to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a review!Review written and posted on our themed book blog:Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Readinghttps://twosisterslostinacoulee.comCoulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.Where I live I am surrounded by Coulees!
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  • Nat
    January 1, 1970
    “And you,” Large Marge said. “What’s your story, missy?”“I don’t have a story.”“Everyone has a story. Maybe yours just starts up here.”I was on the look-out for a novel set around quiet people, and The Great Alone looked like one to fulfill that promise with “the harsh, uncompromising beauty of Alaska.” Plus, the mention of exploring PTSD in the father figure piqued my interest.The bonus was when I started reading the book and became quickly swept up in Leni's life. She's thirteen when the novel “And you,” Large Marge said. “What’s your story, missy?”“I don’t have a story.”“Everyone has a story. Maybe yours just starts up here.”I was on the look-out for a novel set around quiet people, and The Great Alone looked like one to fulfill that promise with “the harsh, uncompromising beauty of Alaska.” Plus, the mention of exploring PTSD in the father figure piqued my interest.The bonus was when I started reading the book and became quickly swept up in Leni's life. She's thirteen when the novel begins, about to enter another new school since her parents move the family rapidly from place to place ("in the last four years, she’d gone to five schools"), and she's keen on drawing as little attention to herself as possible. My kind of girl.Afterward, the storyline unspools easily as the family arrives in Alaska, at the notice of a letter, which leads to stories set on surviving the wilderness of Alaska and the dangers lurking inside their home. To get all I need off my mind, I'd like to share a list of things I took note of during my reading of The Great Alone:(Spoilers from here.)• I have to start off on the right foot by featuring this all-encompassing quote on Leni's bookish love (and mine, by default):“Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I’ve got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place.”• I loved reading about the vast landscape of “the wild, spectacular beauty” of Alaska's unfamiliar terrain. But I have to note the many, many descriptions… Personally, I'm not one for reading more than a couple of sentences on a character's surroundings or the peculiar weather outside. I enjoy it more when the author spends time on dialogue, instead of useless descriptions that my eyes gloss over as it is. None of it seemed to amount to much; the words just passed through me.• On a brighter note, this leads me to talk about the characters. Three noteworthy relationships drove the story forward for me, including Leni with Matthew, Leni with Mama (aka Cora), and Large Marge with literally anyone because she's that dynamic. Also, major bonus points for having a character in here named Natalie.“I followed a man up here. Classic story. I lost the man and found a life. Got my own fishing boat now. So I get the dream that brings you here, but that’s not enough. You’re going to have to learn fast.” Natalie put on her yellow gloves. “I never found another man worth having. You know what they say about finding a man in Alaska—the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”This a classic example of "How can I become so invested in a character by the end of the paragraph?"• My aesthetic is having Large Marge shut down entitled men. I'm still rattled by how she expertly handled Ernt Allbright's volatile, moody, and sharp-tempered self.“Sit down, Ernt,” Large Marge said.“I don’t—”“Sit down or I’ll knock you down,” Large Marge said.Mama gasped.Dad sat down on the sofa beside Mama. “That’s not really the way to talk to a man in his own home.”“You don’t want to get me started on what a real man is, Ernt Allbright. I’m holding on to my temper, but it could run away with me. And you do not want to see a big woman come at you. Trust me. So shut your trap and listen.” • Speaking of which, I was counting down the pages till Ernt would be shown his way out of Alaska for good. He made everything and everyone hurt so deeply. I never trusted him to be alone with Cora. Winter is coming took on a whole new meaning with him in the picture. “You could always tell when Dad was gone. Everything was easier and more relaxed in his absence.” SourceSo I was beyond thankful the moment the townsfolk intervened upon seeing his utterly abusive behavior towards his family. The magnitude of Large Marge and Mr. Walker stepping in to help Leni and her mom stayed with me ever since. Anyone daring to rightfully put Ernt in his place has my evergrowing admiration!“You want to fight this battle?” Large Marge advanced, bracelets clattering. “If this young woman misses a single day of school, I will call the state and turn you in, Ernt Allbright. Don’t think for one second I won’t. You can be as batshit crazy and mean as you want, but you are not going to stop this beautiful girl from finishing high school. You got it?”“The state won’t care.”“Oh. They will. Trust me. You want me talking to the authorities about what goes on here, Ernt?”“You don’t know shit.”“Yeah, but I’m a big woman with a big mouth. You want to push me?”In the wake of those words, I’ve never loved a character more than Marge Birdsall. Showing Cora and Leni that they have a support system around them was a grandiose moment.I felt it even more acutely after having watched Jo Wilson's centric episode in Grey's Anatomy, focusing on domestic abuse. Source• Which brings me to my next point: The perceptive connection that bonds mother and daughter together like peas in a pod. “Two of a kind.” It was both agonizing and admiring to see them stick so fiercely by one another. “Mama was Leni’s one true thing.”They had the kind of relationship that required the simplest measure: “One always knew when to be strong for the other.” It was refreshing to see such an allied bond present between Cora and Leni.“I’m your friend.” “You’re thirteen. I’m thirty. I’m supposed to be a mother to you. I need to remember that.”• Which leads me to my favorite point in the book: The exhilarating rush of giddy, young love shared between Leni and Matthew in 1978. I loved this part of the book so much, I can't bear to shorten it on my note. I haven't felt such fierce dedication to a literary couple in months and months. All this time I was seeking for a book to just get me when it came to those first signs of infatuation; The Great Alone did it so right.“Leni couldn’t help thinking how small they were in this big dangerous world, just kids who wanted to be in love.”I went through all the stages with Leni, from seeking a friend to share her secrets and longings and bookish love with, to become so easily swept up in the intoxicating head rush that is all grown-up Matthew Walker. He got her like no one else did.“She made lists in her head of things she wanted to say to him, had whole conversations by herself, over and over. ”I actually ached when Leni and Matthew were separated for pages at a time because of circumstances beyond their measure. He was our light in the brutal darkness of Alaska.“Night after night, week after week, she lay in her bed, missing Matthew. Her love for him—a warrior, hiking mountains, crossing streams—strode into the wild borderlands of obsession.Near the end of July, she began to have negative fantasies—him finding someone else, falling in love, deciding Leni was too much trouble. She ached for his touch, dreamed of his kiss, talked to herself in his voice.I can feel the pain oozing out of this text.But my most cherished moment came back when she first realized the switch in her mind:“It didn't take Leni long to know that she was in trouble. She thought about Matthew constantly. At school she began to study his every move; she watched him as she would a prey animal, trying to glean intent from action. His hand sometimes brushed hers beneath the desk, or he touched her shoulder as he passed by her in the classroom. She didn’t know if those brief contacts were intentional or meaningful, but her body responded instinctively to each fleeting touch. Once she’d even risen from her chair, pushed her shoulder into his palm like a cat seeking attention. It wasn’t a thought, that lifting up, that unknown need; it just happened. And sometimes, when he talked to her, she thought he stared at her lips the way she stared at his. She found herself secretly mapping his face, memorizing every ridge and hollow and valley, as if she were an explorer and he her discovery.” Scouring my neverending notes for a scene that captures the easygoing nature between the two was quite tough, but then I found this:“But in her mind, he was Matthew, the fourteen-year-old kid who’d showed her frogs’ eggs and baby eagles, the boy who’d written her every week. Dear Leni, it’s hard at this school. I don’t think anyone likes me … And to whom she’d written back. I know a lot about being the new kid in school. It blows. Let me give you a few tips …This … man was someone else, someone she didn’t know. Tall, long blond hair, incredibly good-looking. What could she say to this Matthew?He reached into his backpack, pulled out the worn, banged-up, yellowed version of The Lord of the Rings that Leni had sent him for his fifteenth birthday. She remembered the inscription she’d written in it. Friends forever, like Sam and Frodo.”*cries actual tears of joy* It's scary to put on paper, but they changed something within me. The state of utter fragility and vulnerability that their love put them in stopped me cold and made me think twice of its power.As I read, I was reminded of this tentative song I recently discovered by mxmtoon.• So you could only imagine my devastation to the unexpected (supposed) ending of Matthew being hurt beyond repair when all he was trying to do was save Leni...“I’m the reason he’s hurt. He tried to save me. It’s my fault.”“He couldn’t do anything else, Leni. Not after what happened to his mom. I know my son. Even if he’d known the price, he would have tried to rescue you.”I've never felt such visible pain and hurt and rage. My mind was so overrun with thoughts and emotions; I felt like I was in a zombie state when I dared to get up from the book. In the wake of all the hurt we went through with Leni, everything seemed so banal in the real world. Returning to the Outside felt like involuntary breaking off the rural spell we’d been under. “A girl needs to be strong in this world.”I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that I was supposed to move on like nothing happened after we left Matthew, unsure of what the future held for him. I was so damn invested in every single moment shared between Matthew and Leni; it hurt more than I could bear to merely think of him without her. So I was pretty much left numb after that. I honestly couldn't have cared less, reading about everything that occurred to the characters in the aftermath. All I wanted was justice for Leni's kind, grief-stricken Matthew.“He’d been drowning for all of these years without her, and she was the shore he’d been flailing to find.”In hindsight, I should've known who I was dealing with before entering the novel. After all, I did read The Nightingale two winters ago. And coupled with the fact that I read 400 pages of this newest release in a single day, my reading experience took quite the toll on me. What is fresh air? But as the saying goes "Hindsight is 20/20. Everyone has a clear view from the rearview mirror.” Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying The Great Alone, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission! This review and more can be found on my blog.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Stars ”Well she seemed all right by dawn's early lightThough she looked a little worried and weak.She tried to pretend he wasn't drinkin' againBut daddy'd left the proof on her cheek.And I was only eight years old that summerAnd I always seemed to be in the waySo I took myself down to the fair in townOn Independence Day.“Well ,word gets around in a small, small townThey said he was a dangerous manBut mama was proud and she stood her groundBut she knew she was on the losin' end.Some folks whi 4.5 Stars ”Well she seemed all right by dawn's early lightThough she looked a little worried and weak.She tried to pretend he wasn't drinkin' againBut daddy'd left the proof on her cheek.And I was only eight years old that summerAnd I always seemed to be in the waySo I took myself down to the fair in townOn Independence Day.“Well ,word gets around in a small, small townThey said he was a dangerous manBut mama was proud and she stood her groundBut she knew she was on the losin' end.Some folks whispered and some folks talkedBut everybody looked the other wayAnd when time ran out there was no one aboutOn Independence Day.” -- Independence Day, lyrics by Gretchen Peters”That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops. Water found its way into the smallest cracks and undermined the sturdiest foundations. Chunks of land that had been steady for generations fell like slag heaps on the roads below, taking houses and cars and swimming pools down with them. Trees fell over, crashed into power lines; electricity was lost. Rivers flooded their banks, washed across yards, ruined homes. People who loved each other snapped and fights erupted as the water rose and the rain continued.“Leni felt edgy, too. She was the new girl at school, just a face in the crowd; a girl with long hair, parted in the middle, who had no friends and walked to school alone.“Now she sat on her bed, with her skinny legs drawn up to her flat chest, a dog-eared paperback copy of Watership Down open beside her.”Her parents were in the other room arguing, shouting at each other. Her mother, Cora, pleading with him to listen, her father angry over some she did, or didn’t, do. Her father, Ernt Allbright, angry at the world, angry since he was sent to Vietnam, a POW sent home to solve his own problems that didn’t exist before the war, the sights he’d seen, and can’t un-see. Before everything he’d learned as a result. He said “The world is being run by lunatics. It’s not my America anymore.” And then her father receives a letter from the father of Bo Harlan, one of his buddies who was in the helicopter with him when they went down, were captured and then tortured. His body bears the physical scars, the physical aches and pains, but his mind is still tortured. The letter is to let Ernt know that it was Bo’s wish that he inherit his land, and home, in Alaska. ”Dad wanted a new beginning. Needed it. And Mama needed him to be happy.“So they would try again in a new place, hoping geography would be the answer. They would go to Alaska in search of this new dream. Leni would do as she was asked and do it with a good attitude. She would be the new girl in school again. Because that was what love was.”And so they pack up and move what little they own, and head for Alaska. An adventure. For all of them, a new beginning.As they take in their first look at the town of Kaneq, with dilapidated buildings with peeling paint, built perched above the mud with a boardwalk that connects the buildings. An old town with history that appears to have seen better days, but it’s also a history that they take pride in. From the original Natives who settled the area, to the fur traders from Russia, and then came those men looking for gold. It still bears the aura of those gold rush days, but it’s 1974.In part, this is a coming-of-age story, Leni is just thirteen as this begins, and this town, remote as it seemed when they first arrived, is Leni’s link to people other than her parents. The home they live in is even more remote. ”They lived on a piece of land that couldn’t be accessed by water at low tide, on a peninsula with only a handful of people and hundreds of wild animals, in a climate harsh enough to kill you. There was no police station, no telephone service, no one to hear you scream.For the first time, she really understood what her dad had been saying. Remote”.When she starts school there, it is a small enough school that there is only one other person close to her age, a boy. Matthew. With their love of books and reading a common bond, it isn’t long before they become friendly. Friends. Alaska’s wilderness attracts those who believes in their ability to withstand its inhospitable nature, those with that drive to conquer and mold a Garden of Eden out of an uncultivated land, to hold onto whatever remains of that pioneer spirit, gumption, that drove those pioneers of old to conquer other new, uninhabitable lands which now overflow with people. "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." I loved how slowly Kristin Hannah’s story evolved, loved the characters, especially Leni and Large Marge, but I even loved how many unlikeable characters there were in this story, and how they tried to manipulate everyone to believe in their version of the truth. I loved how this touched on the resilience of the human spirit, despite how broken and bruised we may feel or be.Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    5 Stars for The Great Alone... Alaska. It’s 1974 and a family of three, including a father mentally traumatized by his service in the Vietnam War, move to Alaska to a forty acre plot of land left to him by a fellow soldier who never made it out.Life there is so hard and very bleak. This story is fast paced, and riveting. The characters so beautifully brought to life. Such an atmospheric read, I am so happy that I was able to read this at a time when we have our own Arctic Blast going through her 5 Stars for The Great Alone... Alaska. It’s 1974 and a family of three, including a father mentally traumatized by his service in the Vietnam War, move to Alaska to a forty acre plot of land left to him by a fellow soldier who never made it out.Life there is so hard and very bleak. This story is fast paced, and riveting. The characters so beautifully brought to life. Such an atmospheric read, I am so happy that I was able to read this at a time when we have our own Arctic Blast going through here in Michigan.Highly Recommended!!Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this ARC!!
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    Some plans just have “bad idea” written all over them. This would include Ernt’s plan to take his family to Alaska in 1974. Ernt, a Vietnam vet and ex-POW, is suffering from what we now call PTSD. But back then, there was no diagnosis or treatment. The story is told from the perspective of his daughter, Leni. When they arrive in Alaska, everyone tries to prepare them. To tell them how hard it’s going to be. How one mistake can be fatal. But Leni and her mom, Cora, are desperate to believe that t Some plans just have “bad idea” written all over them. This would include Ernt’s plan to take his family to Alaska in 1974. Ernt, a Vietnam vet and ex-POW, is suffering from what we now call PTSD. But back then, there was no diagnosis or treatment. The story is told from the perspective of his daughter, Leni. When they arrive in Alaska, everyone tries to prepare them. To tell them how hard it’s going to be. How one mistake can be fatal. But Leni and her mom, Cora, are desperate to believe that this move will be different and Ernt will be healed by Alaska. Hannah does an amazing job of giving us that sense of foreboding. I just knew whatever was coming was going to be bad even if the family didn’t see it. My first impression was that this reminded me of The Shining. This is a heartbreaking story. But it also made me mad as hell. I wanted to shake Cora, to make her see sense, to make her be a mother first and a wife second. That she would endanger her daughter pissed me off royally. “There it was: the sad truth. Mama loved him too much to leave him. Still, even now, with her face bruised and swollen. Maybe what she’d always said was true, maybe she couldn’t breathe without him, maybe she’d wilt like a flower without the sunshine of his adoration.”Cora might have been weak and broken, but Thelma and Big Marge weren’t. They’re great characters. Strong and not afraid to stand up to the men. This story couldn’t have taken place anywhere but Alaska. The eighteen hour days in summer and eighteen hour nights in winter are key components. The wilderness is totally wild and deadly. Hannah makes you feel you are there. She keeps the tension going throughout the whole book. There was no slump in the middle. It just kept getting ratcheted up and up. And yes, there are parts at the end that don’t stand up to close scrutiny. But not enough for me to rate this anything but 5 stars. A gripping story you won’t want to put down. Highly recommend.
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  • Theresa Alan
    January 1, 1970
    This is a breathtakingly well-written novel. At only thirteen years old, Leni has already been bounced from school to school, city to city. Her father returned from Vietnam after being a POW a damaged man who is unable to control his nightmares—or his temper, causing him to get fired from job after job. When he learns that a war buddy of his left him a house in Alaska, Ernt is sure this time happiness will be theirs, so he packs up his daughter and wife and they head for The Great Alone. I fell This is a breathtakingly well-written novel. At only thirteen years old, Leni has already been bounced from school to school, city to city. Her father returned from Vietnam after being a POW a damaged man who is unable to control his nightmares—or his temper, causing him to get fired from job after job. When he learns that a war buddy of his left him a house in Alaska, Ernt is sure this time happiness will be theirs, so he packs up his daughter and wife and they head for The Great Alone. I fell in love with the characters of this town, specifically Large Marge, who’d once been a prosecutor in D.C. and now works at a convenience store and always has some weapon strapped to her—everyone does because who knows when a bear might get hungry? I also loved the Walker family. As Leni and her mother Cora get a crash course in surviving inhospitable conditions, they find the biggest danger isn’t the weather or the wildlife, but the man they share a house with. Hannah does an exquisite job expressing the fear Leni lives with every day.It’s also a beautiful story of star-crossed lovers. The Montagues and the Capulets in Alaska. I teared up several times during this story. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. Thanks so much to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to review this book, which RELEASES FEB. 6, 2018.For more of my reviews, please visit: http://www.theresaalan.net/blog
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  • Lindsay - Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars! Beautiful. Emotional. Atmospheric. Heart-wrenching. Stunning. Raw. Intense. I love Kristin Hannah’s writing! I’ve been a fan of her for years, but fell absolutely head over heels in love with her writing after reading The Nightingale. Though I wouldn’t class this book as highly as my love for The Nightingale, it was still an extremely powerful and thoroughly enjoyable novel that I truly loved reading. This story revolves around thirteen-year-old Leni who moves to Alaska with her highl 4.5 stars! Beautiful. Emotional. Atmospheric. Heart-wrenching. Stunning. Raw. Intense. I love Kristin Hannah’s writing! I’ve been a fan of her for years, but fell absolutely head over heels in love with her writing after reading The Nightingale. Though I wouldn’t class this book as highly as my love for The Nightingale, it was still an extremely powerful and thoroughly enjoyable novel that I truly loved reading. This story revolves around thirteen-year-old Leni who moves to Alaska with her highly unstable and unpredictable parents. Her father yearns to live “off the grid” and live off the land. There are many unforgettable characters who become a part of their new lives in Alaska – each one bringing a new layer to this captivating story. I highly recommend this wonderful book!
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  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsI was a bit out of my usual comfort zone as far as reading genres when I came to this book. When I was about 5 percent into the book I was loving it, but as I got just a little bit further I thought to myself, "if I wasn't committed to reading this for NetGalley, I'd move onto something else." However, after taking a deep breath and persevering with the book, I came away with a healthy admiration for this author's writing. I've held the lifelong belief that while reading books I've trav 4.5 starsI was a bit out of my usual comfort zone as far as reading genres when I came to this book. When I was about 5 percent into the book I was loving it, but as I got just a little bit further I thought to myself, "if I wasn't committed to reading this for NetGalley, I'd move onto something else." However, after taking a deep breath and persevering with the book, I came away with a healthy admiration for this author's writing. I've held the lifelong belief that while reading books I've travelled all over the world in my mind. For this reason, I do not feel at all like I've missed out due to my anemic personal travel log. One of the gifts I received from this book was the very unique experience of living "off the grid" in Alaska.It's the early 1970s, and 13 year old Lenora (Leni) Allbright is living with the stress and uncertainty of her parents' volatile marriage. Her father Ernt is a Vietnam POW, never quite the same upon his discharge from the Armed Forces. His sleep is often disturbed by flashbacks and he's unable to control his jealously where his attractive and dedicated wife Cora is concerned. Leni has too often seen her father's hair trigger violence towards her mother, as well as Cora's willingness to forgive without consequences. Cora and Ernt fell in love quite young, culminating in unexpected pregnancy and a rushed, simple wedding. Cora came from wealth and her parents disapproved of the marriage, but her love for Ernt was steadfast. Even though Ernt didn't come home from the war the same man, Cora stoically dealt with the rollercoaster moods from her husband. As Leni witnesses her parents riding the wild emotions of their marriage, their sexual passions still intact... she's a young teenager with a secret to be embarrassed about. Her father sometimes hits her mother. Then a life-changing decision is suddenly made: Ernt receives a letter from the father of a fellow POW- one who didn't make it home alive. His comrade willed him some land and a home in Alaska. Ernt views this opportunity as a lifeline; a place where he can live in solitude off the land. A place to start anew. With hope and some trepidation, Cora agrees to leave their Seattle home along with Leni and Ernt for an unknown future in Alaska. When the Allbrights arrive in this remote strip of Alaska, it's quite unsettling just how "off the grid" this new life will be. There is no running water or electricity, and their modest cabin is littered with dead bugs. There is no bathroom; those needs are met by an outhouse. The only means of communication with their fellow cove inhabitants is by ham radio. They are also warned by the locals how easily one can die during the cruel Alaska winters. The Allbrights must learn how to hunt and fish, can foods, tend to livestock and cut firewood... just to name a few life-saving skills. During the heart of an Alaskan winter, there are barely 8 hours of light in the day. Talk about cabin fever! This was where I hit critical mass in the book and felt so claustrophobic and disturbed that I wished to put aside the book. Ernt at first thrives with the simplicity and physicality of working the land, but does not do well when the unrelenting winter hits. I won't get into the nuts and bolts of the story. Suffice it to say, and I quote Leni, her parents were in a "sick, twisted love that bound her parents together." There are characters that you will grow to love in this book, and one will absolutely turn your stomach. This is a story that is rich, atmospheric and fraught with great emotions. I came away from this book with utter respect and appreciation for the people who homestead in Alaska, with all its beauty and challenges. For all the hard physical work to survive there, they seem to love it and would have it no other way.Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the gift of a great read.
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  • Kit✵
    January 1, 1970
    5/5~~This book completely broke me. I mean, it's wonderful, but also so terrible and heartbreaking. I swear, I don’t think I’ve felt this many emotions from a book in a long, long time. It made me feel happiness, sadness, rage and love — sometimes all at the same time.It’s funny how I ordered this book purely because of it's lovely cover and because it was about Alaska (I’m in a random stage where I want to move there). And now it’s one of my all time favorite novels. Funny how these things work 5/5~~This book completely broke me. I mean, it's wonderful, but also so terrible and heartbreaking. I swear, I don’t think I’ve felt this many emotions from a book in a long, long time. It made me feel happiness, sadness, rage and love — sometimes all at the same time.It’s funny how I ordered this book purely because of it's lovely cover and because it was about Alaska (I’m in a random stage where I want to move there). And now it’s one of my all time favorite novels. Funny how these things work.The Great Alone begins with the image of a wonderful little family: Cora, Ernt, and Leni. Sure, there are underlying problems but every family has problems, so you don’t think much about that. That is, until the story continues and you begin finding out things you didn’t have a clue were happening in their "wonderful little family."Segueing away from that for a moment, the main character (for the majority of the novel), Leni, is an absolute joy to read about. The novel starts off when she is thirteen and ends with her being twenty-five, so you get to see her grow tremendously. Regardless, Lori is not your average thirteen-year-old. She is smart and realistic, and I was often shocked by her interpretations of the world around her. Her mother, Cora, otherwise known as “Mama,” is an awesome character, too. I really liked her, flaws and all, because of how much she loved Leni and would do anything for her (even though it doesn’t seem like that at first - but trust me, it’s there). Not only that, but the mother and daughter bond that Leni and Cora share is so similar to my mama and I, that I loved this book even more because of that. All the other characters were great in their own ways, too: Ernt, who I don’t like, for good reason, but I sympathize with because of what he’d went through in 'Nam; Large Marge, who is hilarious and an ex-lawyer (that surprised me!); Mr. Walker, who I’m still upset Cora didn’t end up with because he’s a sweetheart; Matthew, who I freaking love and had me almost, almost crying when he had that accident. And of course, all the other characters were wonderful and realistic — but these were the one’s that left lasting impressions.All of the descriptive scenery and realistic dialogue and believable characters, just goes to show you how strong of a writer Kristin Hannah is. As a lawyer turned writer, I wouldn’t expect any less. People might be surprised to know, but lawyers have to be really good writers! Honestly, Hannah has become an instant-buy author for me. Just like that. I have another one of her books in my room, which I fully intend to read soon, because her writing and storytelling is brilliant and oh-so-heartbreaking.Overall, I tried not to spoil too much in my review because half of The Great Alone's charm comes from all of its twists and turns. Seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough. It won’t disappoint you — but it may break your heart.
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  • Maxwell
    January 1, 1970
    The Great Alone begins in 1974. Ernt Allbright is a Vietnam POW who is struggling with finding his place in society once again while trying to cope with the traumatic experiences he had in battle. His idea: to escape to a small Alaskan village where he's been left a piece of property by another vet who didn't make it back from war. He decides to move his family—wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni—to this town of a few dozen people to rough it. But when the winter settles in, the family realizes they The Great Alone begins in 1974. Ernt Allbright is a Vietnam POW who is struggling with finding his place in society once again while trying to cope with the traumatic experiences he had in battle. His idea: to escape to a small Alaskan village where he's been left a piece of property by another vet who didn't make it back from war. He decides to move his family—wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni—to this town of a few dozen people to rough it. But when the winter settles in, the family realizes they are in for more than they bargained for, and Ernt's personal demons didn't get left behind with the move north.I thought, as with The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah did an excellent job of creating a sense of place with this story. Alaska is truly another character in this novel. Her descriptions of nature and ability to put the reader in the character's shoes are remarkable. The characters, too, are complex, flawed individuals who you can sympathize with while also thinking, "Why are you doing that!?" They make mistakes and have hang-ups just like the rest of us.My only small issue with this book was that at times it felt a bit melodramatic; sort of like a cheesy made-for-tv movie. Not all the time, but some scenes lacked a bit of that authenticity and felt more formulaic than natural in their resolutions. Part of that felt like Hannah trying to pull on the reader's heartstrings, and others may have just been the only way for the story to move towards where she wanted it to go. Nevertheless, I was emotionally invested in these characters' lives and stories, and was ultimately happy with how the story ended. 4.5 stars
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    The Great AloneKristin HannahMY RATING ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐PUBLISHER St Martin’s PressPUBLISHED February 6, 2018A spellbinding family drama of survival set on the wild and rugged side of the Kenai peninsula of Alaska. SUMMARYIt’s 1974, gas prices are up, the country had been divided over the Vietnam war, and women had begun to disappear in Washington State without a trace. Leni Allbright, 13, was the new girl at another new school, with no friends other than her dog eared copy of Watership Down. She was worrie The Great AloneKristin HannahMY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️PUBLISHER St Martin’s PressPUBLISHED February 6, 2018A spellbinding family drama of survival set on the wild and rugged side of the Kenai peninsula of Alaska. SUMMARYIt’s 1974, gas prices are up, the country had been divided over the Vietnam war, and women had begun to disappear in Washington State without a trace. Leni Allbright, 13, was the new girl at another new school, with no friends other than her dog eared copy of Watership Down. She was worried about her family. Her parent were always fighting, they never had enough money and they moved all the time to get away from creditors. Her dad, Ernt, had been a Vietnam vet, who had gotten shot down and captured. He’d come home four years ago a changed and volatile man. He hated the government, thought it was being run by lunatics. Now he had another plan to change their lives, he’d had lot of plans in the past. But this plan involved moving to a cabin in Kenaq, Alaska on the Kenai penninsula. This, he said, was a place they could be self-sufficient and live off the land and have a simpler life. It was just the change Ernt thought he needed in order to forget the torture he endured in Vietnam. But when they got to Alaska, things were no better. The property and cabin were in shambles and the family had arrived ill prepared. The welcoming Kaneq community swept in to help the Allbright’s prepare for the upcoming winter and for being off the grid. The work was hard, the winter was dark, and the drinking was easy. Ernt’s drinking and jealousy got the better of him and he took it out on his wife, Cora, who was always quick to forgive the man she loved. Leni has finally made a friend at school, a boy. Matthew is about the only person in school who is even close to her age. But her dad doesn’t approve. Matthew is the son of Tom Walker, a man of money and influence over the town, a man who Ernt detests. It’s Leni’s come of age story, as she and her mom face the dark harsh winters and her father’s relentless demons in the small snow covered cabin. It the story of human frailty, strength and survival. Leni was afraid to stay and afraid to leave. It was strange—stupid, even—but she often felt like the only adult in her family, as if she were the ballast that kept the creaky Allbright boat on an even keel.REVIEWTHE GREAT ALONE is a stunning family drama! Having made a recent trip to Alaska I was so excited about the setting for this novel. As anyone who has been to Alaska knows, pictures don’t do it justice and its rugged beauty is impossible to describe. But KRISTIN HANNAH did a marvelous job painting the natural backdrop with magnificent and vivid details. Her descriptions were intoxicating. Hannah expertly delivers a family story, not soon forgotten. She effortlessly blends a father with PTSD, a fragile mother and victim of spousal abuse, and Leni, who just wants to fit in somewhere, but carries the weight of her families secrets in her heart. The mother-daughter bond between Cora and Leni is so strong it’s palpable, making the story all the more poignant. It is together that these two women face the backbreaking work, the dangers from the land, and the havoc at home. It is out of necessity that Leni quickly grows into a strong young woman. The Kaneq community characters are all refreshingly unique, and you can’t help but fall in love with the general store owner, Large Marge, and her larger than life personality. Hannah’s writing is fast and fluid, and kept me reading long into the night. It is an arresting story of modern day homesteading that would make an excellent movie.Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Brenda - Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    I started off lost in the dark and cold, heart and soul desolate coulee surrounded by frozen sheets of ice with two of my Traveling Sisters reading The Great Alone. Not wanting to get out as Norma and two more of our TS joined in reading and discussing this one with me. This lead to a very interesting and insightful discussion as we shared our thoughts on this story. As the discussion progressed I started to see things differently and had more of an understanding of the depth of this story. I re I started off lost in the dark and cold, heart and soul desolate coulee surrounded by frozen sheets of ice with two of my Traveling Sisters reading The Great Alone. Not wanting to get out as Norma and two more of our TS joined in reading and discussing this one with me. This lead to a very interesting and insightful discussion as we shared our thoughts on this story. As the discussion progressed I started to see things differently and had more of an understanding of the depth of this story. I really love when that happens and one of the reasons I love getting lost in a coulee with my TS. The Great Alone is an insightful, inspiring and emotional family saga, part coming of age story with a little romance to it that brought out many emotions for us. Our heart raced with anxiety at times and the temperature soared in the coulee as we worried for our young, strong, brave and determined main character, Leni. Kristin Hannah does such a wonderful job creating a character here with her vivid description of Alaska and the community with these rich, quirky and interesting characters. We could feel their generosity, support, and kindness. Hannah brings insight, magic, and life to Alaska and we could feel the danger of living in such an unforgiving place. At times we wanted Kristin Hannah to have gone in a different direction here with Ernt’s character and didn’t like the way his PTSD was portrayed, however after our discussion we came to realize that's not the story she was telling. We felt the story she was telling was of a teenage girl Leni trapped in her parent's toxic relationship and their obsession with each other. “The twisted love that bound her parents together.”We all loved the ending but at times thought it was a bit too overdramatic and maybe forced some emotions but we reminded ourselves it is a family saga. We all still ended up in the dark cold coulee feeling warm and rewarded with this story full of emotional depth. We highly recommend. Thank you, NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for a copy to read and review.For my reviews featuring Kristin Hannah please check out our Travelling Sister Blog athttps://twosisterslostinacoulee.com/2...
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  • Malia
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars“Leni saw suddenly how hope could break you, how it was a shiny lure for the unwary. What happened to you if you hoped too hard for the best and got the worst?”― Kristin Hannah, The Great AloneI am of two minds when it comes to this book. On one hand, it is compulsively readable; on the other, it is relentlessly bleak. Basically everything bad and frustrating that could happen, does happen, and after 435 pages, it gets exhausting. That being said, it was a well-written (if cliché-rich) 3.5 stars“Leni saw suddenly how hope could break you, how it was a shiny lure for the unwary. What happened to you if you hoped too hard for the best and got the worst?”― Kristin Hannah, The Great AloneI am of two minds when it comes to this book. On one hand, it is compulsively readable; on the other, it is relentlessly bleak. Basically everything bad and frustrating that could happen, does happen, and after 435 pages, it gets exhausting. That being said, it was a well-written (if cliché-rich) and deeply atmospheric book. The character of Leni is certainly sympathetic, and I cared about what would happen to her and her mother. The plot is very emotionally involving and the slow pace with slightly jarring moments of action sort of works well with the contrast between the Alaskan beauty and its brutality. However, given the fact that it takes a long time for the plot to develop, the ending did feel a little rushed and rather cringe-worthy. The most interesting part of this book, for me, was the description of life in rural Alaska. I knew next to nothing about this state (beyond the whole Sarah Palin debacle, and the less said about her, the better) and it was fascinating to learn about the trials of the day-to-day, and the way the season's changes hugely impact the lives of the residents. I also liked that this book was set in the 70s and 80s, before cell phones and the internet, which served to strengthen the sense of other-worldliness, and of course the effects of Vietnam War were a critical part of this story and why it had to be set in this time.I know I sound a little critical of the book, and maybe, once time has passed and my frustration with the relentless misery foisted upon the characters has worn off, I will be inclined to change this review a bit. For now, though, I can say it was a worthwhile read, but a fairly draining one as well, and in a different way than Hannah's previous WWII novel, The Nightingale, which I thought was stunning and heartbreaking at once.Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
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  • Zoeytron
    January 1, 1970
    Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.1974 Alaska.  The beauty of the land is breathtaking, but it is counter-balanced by the cruel and unforgiving elements of nature.  A terrible and beautiful mosaic.  An emotionally scarred man moves his wife and daughter to the remote town of Kaneq for a fresh start.  They are welcomed by the community, but their problems have not been solved.  Tough, hopeful, and bittersweet.  You may leave a little piece of your heart behind when you close Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.1974 Alaska.  The beauty of the land is breathtaking, but it is counter-balanced by the cruel and unforgiving elements of nature.  A terrible and beautiful mosaic.  An emotionally scarred man moves his wife and daughter to the remote town of Kaneq for a fresh start.  They are welcomed by the community, but their problems have not been solved.  Tough, hopeful, and bittersweet.  You may leave a little piece of your heart behind when you close the pages of this one.
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