The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah
Publication Date February 6, 2018
Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 15 hrs and 3 mins
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Genres: Fiction / Family Life / General, Fiction / Women
Reading Challenges: 2022 Audiobook Challenge
In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature.
#1 New York Times Instant Bestseller (February 2018)
A People “Book of the Week”
Buzzfeed’s “Most Anticipated Women’s Fiction Reads of 2018”
Seattle Times’s “Books to Look Forward to in 2018”
Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter north where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Cora will do anything for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, has little choice but to go along, daring to hope this new land promises her family a better future.
In a wild, remote corner of Alaska, the Allbrights 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 newcomers’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates. 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.
The Great Alone By Kristin Hannah is an emotional family drama that had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. Gorgeous descriptions of the beauty of Alaska, and deep and dark secrets all in a sweeping family drama. All this packs an emotional punch that leaves me thinking of the book long after I read the last page.
Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, and their 11-year-old daughter, Leni, decide to move to Alaska. Ernt has returned from Vietnam a changed man, he spent several years in a POW camp and he came home with recurring nightmares, anger issues, and dissatisfaction with life. He believes that a move to the wilderness in Alaska is just what he needs. Cora is very much in love with her husband and believes his time in Vietnam has made him sick, she knows instinctively that his issues are a result of the horrors he witnessed during the war. She helps the family pack up and they all go to Alaska and move into a cabin and piece of land that was given to Ernst by a war buddy.
When they arrive in Alaska, it doesn’t take them long to realize they are woefully unprepared for the wild Alaska weather, and conditions. However the local community helps them through those first few winters, but it never gets easy for the Allbright family. The harsh Alaskan wilderness will take its toll as the harsh winter climate and the continual darkness of winter takes a terrible toll on the Allbright family.
I have been looking forward to this book for a while and I was not disappointed. This book is long, but it never dragged and I never felt like putting it down. The author hooked me from the very beginning and I just had to know what happened to the Allbright family and especially Leni. And a whole lot happened to the family. So many tough topics were addressed in this book, especially what we now know as PTSD. I was intrigued that Cora, knew that her husband was “sick” from the war even if PTSD wasn’t a thing back then. Unfortunately, a lot wasn’t known about how to help men like Ernt, especially not in the wilderness of Alaska. The book also highlights the horrors of domestic abuse and the lack of help for the victims of domestic abuse during this time period.
All the characters are so realistic and well developed. Ernt is a horrible person, but I understood why he was so horrible and the author did a wonderful job of making me understand how Cora could stay with him through all the abuse. On the surface, it never makes sense why a woman would stay with someone so horrible, but Kristin Hannah went deep into these characters and gave me an understanding of the reason Cora stayed, and why Leni was so devoted to her mother.
Leni is such a powerful and strong character. I just loved her, and how she came to love the wilds of Alaska and the tight-knit community in their small town. She’s one tough cookie and went through so much, but it all just made her stronger. And the side characters were so realistic. I just loved Large Marge, and all the other quirky, but realistic characters in the small Alaskan town. Although quirky, I felt like they were exactly the kind of people who are drawn to such a harsh and beautiful part of the world.
Overall, The Great Alone was a wonderful family saga set in a gorgeous, but harsh location that I just loved.
The narrator, Julia Whelan did an excellent job as Leni’s voice. She has just the right amount of inflections and modulation that kept me riveted to the story. Her voices for the different characters were distinct enough that I always knew who was talking and I was never confused.
The Great Alone Counts towards my 2022 Audiobook Challenge.
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