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Monday, 12 February 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah #bookreview


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 unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature

Published by; St Martin's Press


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I was extremely delighted to read an early copy of this via the Jellybooks app so I am forever grateful to them for letting me lose myself in another epic story from Kristin Hannah!  I ADORE The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and it is one of my most favourite books EVER - if you've not picked it up yet then please do!! - so I had high expectations for The Great Alone and was hoping it would tug at my heartstrings as The Nightingale did.  And I did enjoy it but found it not quite living up to previous work and that's probably down to me expecting way too much! I still found it to be a totally absorbing read, full of emotion, full of tragedy and hope but just found the ending a little rushed which did disappoint.

It's a story of Leni growing up in the 1970's and having to move to Alaska with her family as they try and start a new life together after her father returns from the Vietnam War a much changed man.  It is hard not to feel so much sympathy for Leni, as she's forced to move to the middle of nowhere with parents who are extremely toxic - to each other and Leni.  There's a lot of violence in the relationship and a lot of drink too and you understand why Leni often detaches herself from that environment.  When they first move they think that the new lifestyle has changed Ernt, but as the darker days draw in then his personality switches back again and Leni and her mother are left living in fear again, and unable to find an escape from him.

The wider community which they find themselves in do offer some hope to Leni and her mother though, and through them they start to see a glimmer of hope and strength in learning to stand on their own two feet. Never easy though with a character as dominant as Ernt in the background.

We then follow Leni and her story over a number of years and it was good to see her try and follow her dreams in some ways, although tragedy is always never too far away from her as she tries to better herself and find a way out and to have a 'normal' life.

This wasn't as emotionally charged for me to read as The Nightingale, but it still made for a captivating read.

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