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Alaska 1974Unpredictable Unforgiving UntamedFor a family in crisis the ultimate test of survivalErnt 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 frontierThirteen 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 resourcesBut 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 themselvesIn 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

10 thoughts on “The Great Alone

  1. says:

    My reviews can also be seen at Wow This was a FANTASTIC novel There is 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 uick to angerso very uick to angerIt’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 lifeaway from all of the madness A simple life on land that they can live offgrow 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 Kane 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 wordRemote “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 nervousThe 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 worseCould the darkness and the danger in her home be 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 skiesHope 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

  2. says:

    35 starsWhen 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 aweNaturally 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 togetherWhen 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 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 timesKristin 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 refreshingAs readers we all connect with bookscharacterswriting 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

  3. says:

    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 fresh in my mind but I'm pretty sure I enjoyed The Great Alone even 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 sentimental than I personally like But I still highly recommend itI 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 familyThe 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 enthrallingI 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 delusionalI 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 uality to it dark places and broken dreams included Mama had uit 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

  4. says:

    Kristin Hannah wrote 70% of a novel and then 30% of a soap operaI 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 taleThe 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 vengeanceCora 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 spoilerand murders someone hide spoiler

  5. says:

    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 wayForewarning 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 reviewJust 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 allThe 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 againAs a side note nowhere in this author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book did she thank a psychologistpsychiatrist 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 wrongSorry if this sounds 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 starsMAYBE if I wasn’t the wife of a military vet who unfortunately saw 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

  6. says:

    Warning I usually write uirky lyrical bits about a book This is going to be of a rant There might be accidental spoilers so steer clear if that will bother youAgain SPOILERS though not clear spoilersOk I truly hated this formulaic flat stereotypes everyone book I LOVED The Nightingale Made everyone I know read it I thought The Nightingale hung the moon and stars I was excited beyond words for the release of The Great AloneThe GoodThe first few pages were great Further into the book the descriptions of the Alaskan landscape will move you and make you feel like you are standing there with the chill and snow kissing your face The actual writing and turns of phrase are still beautiful in most places The BadThe book put a bad taste in my mouth almost immediately Repeatedly Hannah writes about Vietnam vets alcoholism PTSD wife beating etc as stereotypes There’s no honest depth to the characters except Leni Reading this book makes you think that ALL traumatized war vets become monsters Ernst is a total worthless human being Whatever he was before the Vietnam War he comes back as a monster There’s a brief nod to something a “shrink” once mentioned to him Otherwise there’s zero psychological or social support Why was Ernst not seeing a therapist? Instead he chose to be a raging alcoholic and to beat his wife and later his child This is a choice Plenty of war vets make other choices even though they’ve been through hell NOT ALL THOUGH The battered wife I’ve known and worked with battered women Most of them would have left an abusive husband over the rabbit heart Most battered women will take abuse but will find the strength to leave the husband if he hurts their kids NOT ALL THOUGHThat’s the thing The book takes the worst case scenario for EVERY character Every single character even Leni is the least of the best possibilities You know Job? Well that’s Cora and Leni It’s simply not believable It’s like a formula for a bestseller I feel like for the “bad thing happens that must be overcome” part of the fiction novel formula there was a list about a mile longVietnam War vetPTSD Mean Extreme povertyPregnant at sixteen Daughter will also be pregnant in high schoolBattered wifeBattered DaughterCrazy preppers Homesteading difficultiesRunawayFall off a cliffSevere brain damage AlcoholismMurderCancer Oh Also multiple times Hannah mentions Alaska and how people worship “weirdo Gods” thereI get that Alaska means you can be yourself Hannah manages to make it sound like a lot of them are crazy Idk I doubt they are any crazier than the crazies in the lower forty eight She also writes about the flip side the community spirit Still if I was from Alaska I’d feel I was portrayed like a cartoon drawing Hannah piles on catastrophe after catastropheHow could she write The Nightingale and then this? I just am gobsmacked It’s like two different writers though the writing is always beautifulI read this overwrought mess of a book to the end I’m sorry I did I’d be happier dealing with my uiet guilt at an unfinished book than with my internal feelings of pervasive yuckiness over having read this book Just No

  7. says:

    “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 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 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

  8. says:

    What a story I mentioned this in one of my status updates and I think it is the best way to describe this book every new scene in this book is out of the frying pan and into the fireMy wife recommended this book to me and we usually have a pretty good idea of what the other will like probably a 95% success rate We have both read and enjoyed The Nightingale which is probably what Hannah is best known for even though she has uite an extensive resume of novels This book is uite unlike The Nightingale and dare I say even betterAt first I thought it started slow and I was having trouble connecting to it But about 13 of the way through the intensity and the story really ramped up From then on out it is a rollercoaster suspense thriller tear jerker that warms the heart and will terrify you with the possibilities of the human conditionI can easily recommend this to almost anyone It is just great storytelling of a uniue and captivating tale

  9. says:

    its books like this that remind me why reading is such a passionate and worthwhile constant in my life i have come to rely on books to help me learn grown empathise and sometimes escape and this story did all of that but what i am grateful for most of all is how i was able to read about a place i have never been and fall in love with it how i could find an undeniable softness for the harsh landscape of the alaskan wilderness how i could come to understand the pure beauty of a place i have never seen “for we few the sturdy the strong the dreamers alaska is home always and forever the song you hear when the world is still and uiet you either belong here wild and untamed yourself or you dont” i loved being able to accompany leni as she came of age and learned to call alaska and its people home yes this story can be a bit dramatic at times yes there is a lot going on i even saw a review describing this as the hallmark channel movie of books and i totally get that but none of that could lessen the deep feeling i got reading about leni find love in where she lived and with a boy who saw her what a special story ↠ 45 stars

  10. says:

    ‘’Outside night had fallen A full moon cast blue white light on everything Stars filled the sky with pinpricks and elliptical smears of light Up here at night the sky was impossibly huge and never uite turned black but stayed a deep velvet blue The world beneath it dwindled down to nothing a dollop of firelight a suiggly white reflection of moonlight on the tarnished waves’’The Allbright's seem a typical American family trying to find its way in a nation tarnished by the effects of the Vietnam War in a society that undergoes significant changes Ernt Cora and their teenage daughter Leni Ernt a veteran of the war suffers from PTSD turning what should be a family haven into a battlefield of turmoil threats and ferocious insecurity Dissatisfied with his country surrendering to his absurd notions of how a country should be governed he drags his family into the Last Frontier Alaska A place of unimaginable beauty and danger Everything changes for Leni Cora and the residents of what seemed like the ideal closely knit community because of one man’s madness and vicious characterI am sorry to say that this novel left me cold and disappointedThere is no doubt that the premise of the story is interesting and realistic The descriptions of the Alaskan nature are breathtakingly beautiful and there are uite a few elements that made me feel invested in the story of the Allbright family initially This historical era is one that always attracts my interest and Hannah did a good job transferring it into the heart of the narration All the familiar 70s trademarks have been put into good use The search for a spiritual destination the notion of Unitarianism the rallies for peace The yet unnamed ‘’don’t show don’t tell’’ PTSD the IRA attacks the Watergate the nightmarish terrorist attack during the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972In this background enriched by many 70s cultural references Hannah poses a major uestion where does patriotism the honest peaceful love for one’s country end and nationalism racism and mass hysteria begin? How can women respond and defend themselves in an era when men still think they rule everyone’s fate? The inseparable bond between a mother and a daughter two survivors of a man’s madness is hauntingly beautiful seen through the eyes of Leni a bookish girl and one of the most well composed characters in Contemporary Literature However I’m afraid this is where my positive thoughts on this novel endThe dialogue suffers from a number of cliches in my opinion Stilted and exaggerating like a cheesy Hollywood film Repetition didn’t do any favours to the continuation of the story This is my main complaint with this novel How many chapters do you need to say the same things again and again? A writer doesn’t properly build tension in such a way The only thing it made me feel was irritation and a deep desire to read the end and abandon the book altogether I could have skipped pages after pages and I wouldn’t have missed anything at all The way many chapters ended seemed like the old lingering take on a protagonist’s ridiculously lost expression in a soap opera Not my ideal picture of an interesting book On a side note the references to The Thorn Birds and the friendship between Frodo and Sam were melodramatic cheesy and irritating In my opinionIn terms of characterization I wasn’t impressed at all With the exception of Leni whose romantic story was laughably bad the rest of the characters left me utterly indifferent I uickly lost patience with Cora I mean girl you don’t want to lose face or you really enjoy Ernt’s you know what That’s fine as long as you are alone But being blinded by your illusions and shoving your ridiculous excuses to your daughter’s mind do little to ensure her safety I didn’t buy any of Cora’s musings Call me heartless that’s my opinion Despite the fact that she takes some action her character is no figure to look up to At least not according to my standards Ernt is a loony Plain and simple No justification no pretext The excuse of PTSD is uickly wasted He is mad and that’s the end of it Horrible character written as a caricature to force drama Don’t even get me started on Matthew and Large Marge because we’ll be here until DoomsdayThis novel is begging to become a Hollywood production Unfortunately I seldom watch these and ‘’Hollywood’’ books are absolutely not to my liking I’m certain that somewhere deep inside those pages beyond all this repetition and drama lies a perfectly good book and many trusted friends loved it This is the reason why I grant 3 stars and not 2 not that it matters but for argument’s sake For the beauty of the Alaskan territory and the character of Leni and for the fact that I was not the suitable reader for this book I am sorry but family melodramas that try to force my feelings are not for meMy reviews can also be found on