The Great Alone

The Great Alone

Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the i...

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Title:The Great Alone
Author:Kristin Hannah
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The Great Alone Reviews

  • Deanna

    My reviews can also be seen at:

    Wow!! This was a

    novel. There’s no way that 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,

    My reviews can also be seen at:

    Wow!! This was a

    novel. There’s no way that 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.

    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.

    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 “

    ”. 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.

    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.

    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. “

    When they talk about what’s destroying America, when TSHTF, and “

    ” 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?

    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

    or “

    back then… the horrible flashbacks and nightmares, the anxiety and anger, the inability to cope with regular life. Now it’s called

    . 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.

  • Angela M

    “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.

  • Linda

    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.

  • Karen❄️

    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!!

  • Carol

  • Paromjit

    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.

  • Theresa Alan

    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:

  • Diane S ☔

    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.

  • Melissa

    When it comes to emotionally compelling fiction, without a doubt,

    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

    When it comes to emotionally compelling fiction, without a doubt,

    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

    my favorite of

    ’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.

    , 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

    . 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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    new favorite. I also feel compelled to mention, of her books, I adored these in particular:

    ,

    ,

    and

    .

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