Do you like novels that make you shed a whole lot of tears? Do I have the book for you! With The Great Alone, author Kristin Hannah (who also wrote The Nightingale) delivers a heartwrenching story about love, family and resilience, set in the rugged Alaskan wilderness.
Lena Allbright is a teenager who has lived a lonely life. Her dad keeps getting fired from his jobs and uprooting Lena and her mother to search for work. Lena is always the new girl at school, which makes it hard to make friends. She finds refuge in books.
Unfortunately, things aren’t good at home. Her father, Ernt, is a damaged man. Flawed before he headed to Vietnam, several years as a POW absolutely broke him. Lena is close to her mother, Cora, but Cora has some serious flaws of her own. Cora and Ernt are locked in a toxic relationship, leaving Lena to often play the role of the adult in the family.
When Ernt finds out a dead army buddy left him a cabin in Alaska, he jumps at the chance for a new start and hauls his family in their VW bus up to the Alaskan wilderness. Their accommodations are RUSTIC, as in no electricity, grow and kill your own food rustic. The family is ill-prepared for their new life but fortunately fellow homesteaders take them under their wings. At first, Ernt thrives and Leni begins to feel like she’s finally found a home and some steady friends. Things are looking up.
But things start to slowly unravel with Ernt. Still battling demons from Vietnam, the perpetually dark Alaskan wilderness begins to bring out the violent darkness in him. It’s like watching a slow train wreck unfold. You know catastrophe is imminent but you don’t know who the victims will be. The author delivers the catastrophe about two thirds through the book, but she isn’t done messing with your emotions yet. The last part is gut wrenching as Lena endures what seems like perpetual heartache. But life and the Alaskan wilderness has made her resilient and she eventually prevails in an unexpected way.
The Great Alone is a riveting testament to the human spirit. Alaska is the perfect setting and Ms. Hannah captures its majesty and brutality with a reverent pen. It’s a book you get caught up in and then can’t let go. Get the book and a big box of tissues to go with it.
Have you read The Great Alone or anything else by Kristin Hannah? I’m curious to hear your opinion. Please share your thoughts below.