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The Great Alone

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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.

435 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 6, 2018

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About the author

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People's Choice award for best fiction in the same year. It was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. In 2018,

The Great Alone became an instant New York Times #1 bestseller and was named the Best Historical Novel of the Year by Goodreads.

The Four Winds was published in February of 2021 and immediately hit #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Indie bookstore's bestseller lists. Additionally, it was selected as a book club pick by the both Today Show and The Book Of the Month club, which named it the best book of 2021.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with Dakota and Elle Fanning set to star. Tri Star has also optioned The Great Alone and it is in development. Firefly Lane, her beloved novel about two best friends, was the #1 Netflix series around the world, in the week it came out. The popular tv show stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke and Season Two is currently set to conclude the series on April 27, 2023.

A former attorney, Kristin lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 61,600 reviews
Profile Image for Deanna .
691 reviews12.5k followers
July 5, 2022
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

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 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.

“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 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.

“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 word...Remote.

“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 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?

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 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 “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.
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.7k followers
November 25, 2017
*3.5 stars*

When 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 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 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 together.

When 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 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.

Kristin 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 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 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.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
February 8, 2018
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 more fresh in my mind, but I'm pretty sure I enjoyed The Great Alone even more 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 more sentimental than I personally like. But I still highly recommend it.

I 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 family.

The 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 enthralling.

I 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 delusional.

I 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 quality to it, dark places and broken dreams included.
Mama had quit 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.

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Profile Image for KAS.
317 reviews3,127 followers
July 3, 2019
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 way.

Forewarning: 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 review.

Just 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 all.

The 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 again.

As a side note - nowhere, in this author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book, did she thank a psychologist/psychiatrist 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 wrong.

Sorry if this sounds more 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 stars.

MAYBE if I wasn’t the wife of a military vet, who unfortunately saw more 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.
Profile Image for Furrawn.
586 reviews44 followers
March 9, 2018
Warning, I usually write quirky lyrical bits about a book. This is going to be more of a rant. There might be accidental spoilers so steer clear if that will bother you.

Again: SPOILERS though not clear spoilers.

Ok. 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 Alone.

The Good:
The 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 Bad:
The 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.

That’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 long:

Vietnam War vet
Extreme poverty
Pregnant at sixteen
Daughter will also be pregnant in high school.
Battered wife
Battered Daughter
Crazy preppers
Homesteading difficulties
Fall off a cliff
Severe brain damage

Oh. Also, multiple times Hannah mentions Alaska and how people worship “weirdo Gods” there.I 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 catastrophe.

How could she write The Nightingale and then this? I just am gobsmacked. It’s like two different writers... though the writing is always beautiful.

I read this overwrought mess of a book to the end. I’m sorry I did. I’d be happier dealing with my quiet guilt at an unfinished book than with my internal feelings of pervasive yuckiness over having read this book.

Just. No.

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews44.1k followers
June 12, 2023
The year 1974, Vietnam War is over but war against the inner demons, struggles, psychological damage residues on people’s minds, hearts and souls still out there!
Allbright family wanted a fresh start and brand new life but they chose the wildest, harshest, cruelest place to live…

Welcome to Kaneq, Alaska… I’m making a correction. This was not family decision. Ernt made her family move there. His wife Cora who is suffering from his anger management issues left from traumatic experiences from war and his smart, brilliant, young daughter Leni is also confused to start at a place they couldn’t locate on the map. They reluctantly obey his decision and did their best to make him happy by creating a new house life left in the middle of nowhere.

But NOT THE WILD, KILLER ANIMALS HUNT FOR BLOOD OUTSIDE or WORST,CHALLENGING, FREEZING WEATHER CONDITIONS scared mother and daughter for their lives. The monster was hiding outside. He was living at their house and building a cage to protect them from outer world but truly building a cell to trap them into their own prisons.

Mother and daughter shut their mouth and endured all the false treatments, paranoid behaviors. Cora suffered from beating and verbal abuses but she didn’t defend herself till one day Ernt targeted their own daughter, Leni. That triggers last piece of endurance Cora barely gathered. She needs to protect her daughter by standing against her husband even it means to sacrifice herself and their life changes in one night.

I think I could write “I LOVE THIS BOOK! I LOVE THIS BOOK! I LOVE THIS BOOK!” at least million times! This is not only my last year’s favorite book but this is also one of my all-time favorite books.

Kristin Hannah already stole my heart and took all the tears a human body could produce with her masterpiece “Nightingale” (For one year, I suffered from dry eye syndrome! I cried for months and made little children traumatized with my red-rimmed image. Even Step King inspired to write a book named “Red-rimmed” after his “Red-rum sequel”. The story focused on a redhead woman stealing people’s cry and swallow them at night. Yikes! You can imagine he dropped out the project!)

I’m rereading now and I know I’m gonna wail when I’m reading the last chapters. But at least ending was not dramatic like Nightingale (thanks to the author for not being merciless this time)

Now “Firefly Lane” is on my list. It’s also gonna be TV series with Katherine Heigl (I’d better read and skip the show because I don’t want to hate story for wrong casting)

Summary: This author is one of the most talented, creative, inspirational people on the earth. I loved her books so much. I never get bored to read them several times. And for the last words Great Alone! I LOVED IT 3 MILLIONS!

Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 7, 2021

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.
Thirteen-year-old Leni is living in a desperate situation.

Her father, Ernt Allbright, is back from the war but he came back...different. Plagued by nightmares and horrors associated with his time as a POW.

Her mother, Cora, desperately clings to the man he used to be but it's incredibly clear to Leni that the man her mother remembers is far gone.
Love and fear. The most destructive forces on earth. Fear had turned her inside out, love had made her stupid.
Ernt inherits some land from a friend and suddenly Leni finds herself leaving everything behind for Alaska.

It's 1974 and the world is bursting with music, movies and glamour...and Leni finds herself isolated and alone. Trapped with an increasingly violent father and surrounded by an unforgivingly harsh land.

And yet...and yet... Leni is slowly finding her home. In the friendly neighbors, the kind townspeople and the animals surrounding their little homestead.

But winter is approaching and when the world goes dark, her dad loses what little he has left.

Absolutely STUNNING.

This book was seriously STUNNING.

From the moment I picked it up, I was hooked.

The landscape and setting was gorgeously done.

The harsh world coupled with the beautiful scenery and surroundings truly made me immersed in this book.

The tension from the father and the harsh wilderness kept my heart pounding.

Leni was truly an amazing main character. I couldn't look away. I was constantly cheering and gasping at what Leni lived through.

The ending was incredible - I definitely didn't see it coming but it really was perfect.

All in all, I absolutely loved this book and I now have to read everything this author has ever written.

A huge thank you to the Mimi from Goodreads for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
43 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2018
Only 2 stars because she's a "good" writer and I did keep reading until the end to see what happened. Really deserves one star. What schlock! Was this meant to be a Young Adult book? Or the screenplay treatment for a bad Hallmark movie? As mentioned, Hannah's writing is quite nice and she paints quite a vivid and lovely picture of Alaska. But she does it OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. We get it. Alaska is wild and beautiful and harsh. On to the characters - each and everyone is a completely one dimensional caricature. The beautiful, love-struck mother with the loving, wealthy parents, who allows her crazy, penniless husband to force her and her teen daughter to move into a cabin with no electricity or toilet in Alaska. Glorious Mama (what was with the book being in third person but calling the parents "Mama" and "Dad?) then allows crazy husband to beat the living hell out of her repeatedly (something the daughter never notices until Alaska). Daughter meanwhile just loves living in a shack in the tundra and magically meets the love of her life in the one room school. Never for a moment does she resent her beautiful, perfect mother for foisting this life upon her and refusing to leave her insane, violent husband. Dad is a mysteriously released POW who starts out lovely and ends up a complete nutjob. Neighbors are godsends or Doomsdayers, with no countervailing good or bad characteristics. The plot goes out of control - endless awful and ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE things happen. As Hannah reminds endlessly, Alaska is dangerous! But hey, fall in that ice, run your car off the road, fall down that ravine, take that punch to the face, have unprotected sex, make it as bad as you possibly can so your implausible redemption is all that schlockier. So many idiotic plot holes arise in the last 1/2 of the book and the love story is just so saccharine and unlikely. I rolled my eyes so often, I can't even believe I finished the book. Also, it is at least 150 pages too long. I know I enjoyed The Nightingale, so I was heartily disappointed by this one. SKIP!
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews9,000 followers
December 23, 2018
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 fire!

My 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 quite an extensive resume of novels. This book is quite unlike The Nightingale, and, dare I say, even better.

At first I thought it started slow and I was having trouble connecting to it. But, about 1/3 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 condition.

I can easily recommend this to almost anyone. It is just great storytelling of a unique and captivating tale.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,714 reviews25k followers
October 14, 2021
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.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
April 16, 2019
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 quiet. 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.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.5k followers
October 5, 2018

Oh, man, this book.

In 1974, the world was turned upside-down, what with Vietnam, the gas crisis, Watergate, and so much more to cause people to feel unsettled. Thirteen-year-old Leni Allbright knew these feelings all too well, but more because her father, Ernt, a Vietnam POW, has never quite been the same since he returned from being captured during the war. Leni watches the almost all-consuming love her parents have for each other, which is exacerbated by the times when her father "just isn't right," suffering nightmares, mood swings, and violent rages which have caused them to pick up and move several times over the last several years.

"One thing every child of a POW knew was how easily people could be broken."

After Ernt loses another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he is going to move his family to a small town in Alaska, and settle on some land left to him by a fellow soldier. The thought of moving somewhere so remote, so dangerous, so unknown, is tremendously frightening, but Leni's mother, Cora, has never abandoned her husband no matter what he has done, so she's willing to follow him into the wilderness, in the hopes this may be the fresh start he needs.

When they arrive, they are all bewitched by the immense beauty of Alaska in summer—the vivid colors, the sounds of animals they had never seen in person before, the feel of living off the land. Yet they know that winter is not that far away, and they've heard that many people don't even survive one winter in Alaska. With limited money and supplies, they prepare as best they can, but they are buoyed by the generosity of the community they've moved into, despite Ernt's resentment that others are providing for his family.

"Alaska isn't about who you were when you headed this way. It's about who you become. You are out here in the wild, girls. That isn't some fable or fairy tale. It's real. Hard. Winter will be here soon, and believe me, it's not like any winter you've ever experienced. It will cull the herd, and fast. You need to know how to survive."

Winter pushes the Allbrights to their limits, and Ernt's mental state begins to deteriorate more and more. Leni realizes that her father is dangerous and she can't understand why her mother continues to stay with him, to even provoke his moods somewhat, and yet refuse to leave when things get bad. And they get bad, with increasing frequency. But Leni knows that she cannot leave her mother, or she might not be able to save her.

As Leni gets older, she becomes less forgiving of her father's moods and her mother's refusal to help them escape. When the community's residents get divided between those who want to see change and modernity brought to the wilderness, and those who prefer living off the grid and fending for themselves, Ernt's resentment grows, drawing his entire family into a dangerous struggle, one from which escape is becoming increasingly unlikely.

The Great Alone is the story of survival, not just in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, but within your own lives. It's a book about confronting your fears and realizing how strong you are, of feeling the need to protect those you love from pain or hurt no matter what the sacrifices you must make in exchange, and how the things we most want to say are the hardest to verbalize. This is a book about courage, the power of love and friendship, and an unshakable bond between parent and child.

I've never read any of Kristin Hannah's books before, and I don't know why that's the case, but this book blew me away. The story is tremendously compelling, and even though it has familiar elements, Hannah's storytelling made it feel fresh. There is such a poignancy in this book, and I'm not ashamed to say it wrecked me emotionally at times, but I kept reading and reading and just couldn't stop. Thanks to a cold, rainy Sunday, I read the entire book in one day, but now I'm sad it's over.

Is this predictable? Perhaps a bit. But this is an exceptional story populated by complex, fascinating characters and vivid imagery that made you feel you were experiencing the beauty and harshness of Alaska. Boy, did I love this.

"In the vast expanse of this unpredictable wilderness, you will either become your best self and flourish, or you will run away, screaming, from the dark and the cold and the hardship. There is no middle ground, no safe place; not here, in the Great Alone."

I have four words for you: Read this book now.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,309 reviews2,191 followers
October 28, 2017
“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.
Profile Image for BekahPG .
259 reviews
April 19, 2018
There are a million ways to die in Alaska. (In case you somehow forgot.) And one of them is probably reading this pile of trite, repetitive, melodramatic, schmaltzy garbage.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews623 followers
January 24, 2018
Kristin Hannah fans will be more than satisfied!!!

I found the story a little predictable- and not all characters as layered as I would have liked, yet the sincerity in which Kristin wrote this novel is admirable and beautiful....with much to respect for taking on these serious themes. Kristin’s heart and passion is mixed between all her words on every page.
The writing flows with emotional intimacy.

This story is told through the eyes of Leni, daughter of a former Vietnam POW.
Leni, an only child, had gone to four new schools in five years during her early pre- and teen years. She didn’t make friends easy - or at all - at these new schools- and she worried about her parents constantly.

Ernt and Cora, Leni’s parents, were often fighting. Vietnam changed her Ernt. He returned home moody, quick to anger, and distant.
Cora was engaged in a continual quest to find herself — taking spiritual workshops and human potential courses. Sure- when you���re hurting - seeking help and support makes sense.

It’s tough for a young girl who feels they are - at times- the only ‘mature’ adult in the family. Leni was only 13- and never had time to act out as a normal teenager. The conditions of their family were just always much too fragile....to inhumane.
Things were especially hard on Leni’s mom, Cora.
Leni felt very attached and protective of her mom - bringing them close - questionable if their closeness was always the best thing - or if boundaries between parent and child got crossed—
however they experienced a type of trauma together neither should have had to experience. And in cases of emergency/ traumas- close is close is close: period!

Leni says: “One thing every child of a POW knew was how easily people could be broken”. ......and broken - and broken and broken again!

We are witness to tragedies.....
while getting to know Leni - her family - the community - (neighbor Large Marge is a standout character), Matthew, and life in Alaska.

Abusive family secrets weigh heavily - innocence is robbed - leaving an urgency for survival.

The Vietnam War divided our country.... The 70s were turbulent times: Many of us old farts remember them all too well —
“Full of protests and marches and bombing and kidnappings. Young women were being abducted from college campuses”. —-The 70’s - were confusing years for many.
Dad, Ernt, was suffering from PTSD- had lost his job -was offered an opportunity in Alaska - a cabin to live in.
Alaska seemed like a ‘hopeful solution’ for the Allbright family, but our author clearly reminds us that “ Life is ‘not’ circumstantial”.
Funny, how life works - isn’t it?—we bring ourselves with us no matter where we go - our problems tag along. They don’t go away simply by changing locations.

Leni is wise beyond her years: she had to be!
Alaska, .....exquisite, breathtaking, and beautiful, is where Leni found love - lost love -created love - and grew stronger in who she is.
And.....Alaska is where she came to feel most at home.

I especially need to thank Saint Martin’s Publishing .... I receive a ‘surprise’ finished Hardback copy of “The Great Alone” in my mailbox. The book cover is gorgeous-
Many thanks to Kristin Hannah too.
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
251 reviews1,016 followers
July 27, 2021
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

3.5 stars

The Great Alone did it. Kristin Hannah is now officially on my Authors I Like to Hate List .

It’s hard to say this because I adore many aspects of her historical fiction novels. I find them to be captivating and meticulously researched. Her female leads are endearing, resilient, and memorable. And her prose is lovely to read.

But oh, the tragedy! The heartbreak! The suffering!


The torment she inflicts upon her characters is just so excessive. It doesn’t feel real. It’s impossible to believe that all this awfulness could happen to one person.

And for me, what’s even worse is the corny, schmaltzy melodrama and emotional manipulation. It kills my reading experience. It pushes me over the edge to where I’m shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and disappointed that I am, once again, responding in this way to these wonderful stories.

Especially since her novels have such strong starts.

The first 70% of The Great Alone is outstanding. Immersed in Hannah’s stunning scenic imagery, I was taken with young Leni and felt great empathy for her coming-of-age plight in 1970s Alaska. For not only must she survive the brutal harshness of the untamed wilderness but also a toxic, volatile home life that endangers her well-being and future.

The problem, though, is that one minute I’m reading a compelling survival story of a brave teenaged girl, and the next, it’s as if an overwrought Lifetime movie is unfurling on the page. The last third of the novel is nothing but sad trauma after sad trauma, interspersed with frequent moments of laughable absurdity.

Sigh. It was enough to drive me up the wall.

Because I loved The Great Alone. Most of it, at least.

Until sadly, I no longer did.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,275 reviews2,444 followers
June 8, 2022
This is not at all an easy book to read. The brutality of the domestic abuse mentioned in this book will force us to stop reading it while the amazing writing skills of Hannah and the innocence of Leni will keep us glued to the book at the same time.

The story revolves around Leni, a teenager who had to move to Alaska along with her family. Her mother, Cora, had to suffer a lot of domestic abuse from her husband, Ernt. The obstacles this family had to face, especially during the winter forms the crux of this story. This book takes some time to grow on you as the initial part seems to be a little slow, but after the plot is fully developed, it was an amazing reading experience for me.

The beauty and wilderness of Alaska
Alaska is a place where there are more than three million lakes; we can go for a tour for bear watching, husky- dog sledding, mining for gold, witnessing of the Northern lights in Fairbanks and extraordinarily beautiful Seward Highway.

" You know what they say about finding a man in Alaska—the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

“What is it really like?” Leni asked Matthew the next day at the end of school. All around them, kids were gathering up their supplies to go home. “What?” “Winter.” Matthew thought about it. “Terrible and beautiful. It’s how you know if you’re cut out to be an Alaskan. Most go running back to the Outside before it’s over.” “The Great Alone,” Leni said. That was what Robert Service called Alaska.

Absence of sunlight during the severe winter coupled with winter blues and Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD) makes people extremely anhedonic in Alaska. Global warming is really affecting Alaska, which is causing severe wildfires and alarmingly rising sea levels. Alaska is also the second-largest oil producer in the USA, which is great from an economic point of view but unfortunately is causing more global warming.

Vietnam war and the sufferings Americans had to face due to it
According to various studies, approximately 30% of men and 27% of women had PTSD at some point in their life following Vietnam. Many of them had PTSD as a chronic condition spanning more than a decade. The ripple effect of PTSD and it's after-effects in personal, family and social life is devastating. It caused in the development of a lot of Psychological, cardiac, neurological abnormalities. Substance abuse, domestic violence, suicides caused due to it is also very high in number. Vietnam syndrome which was the public aversion to American overseas military involvements, following the domestic controversy was also very prominent during that time.

The movies like platoon and full metal jacket showed us the harsh realities of the Vietnam war.

This is a novel where the Darwinian theory of “Survival of the fittest” is tested to the core and is extremely difficult to read due to the large number of harsh circumstances that Leni had to face.
What is this book about? Is it dealing with
- Historical fiction
- Man versus nature
- Problems including pregnancy that a teenager has to face
- War and its long term consequences people have to suffer
- Woman empowerment amid extreme suffering
- Coming of age of a young girl.

It is all these and much more. Even though this book is an emotional roller coaster, we can see the beauty amid the wilderness, hope amid disaster, love amid hatred, beautiful smile amid heart wrecking tears. If you are a fan of books coming under any of the above topics, please pick up this book to start reading. There is a high probability that you may love it. It was quite befitting that this book won the Goodreads choice award for the Best Historical fiction. Thank you so much, Kristin Hannah, for writing such a wonderful novel.

“There is no middle ground, no safe place; not here, in the Great Alone.”
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
November 23, 2017

KRISTIN HANNAH grabbed my attention from the get-go with her freaky cold (Brrrrrrrr) descriptively atmospheric novel set in a remote 1970's Alaska where "you can make one mistake, but the second one will kill you"......literally.

THE FIRST HALF of the story introduces the reader to the Allbright family and the shock of their unimaginably dangerous and unpredictable new life in the wild.

LIVING ROUGH (Yikes!) in their inherited little cabin, they must haul water, grow their own vegetables, and hunt for food....all while armed and on the lookout for black bears and wolf packs....AND with only three months each year to prepare for the long, dark and treacherous winter months to come.

BUT....harsh weather conditions, isolation and "icy darkness" is NOT their only fear....there is another. "People go batshit in the dark."

THE GREAT ALONE has something for everyone....engaging writing....suspense....adventure and great characters with names like MAD Earl, LARGE Marge and ha!....CRAZY Pete & Matilda.

THERE IS also more than one story of love here, volatile family relationships, and invaluable friendships amidst the environmental dangers. THE GREAT ALONE is written with heart and heartbreak with an emphasis on survival....in more ways than one!

MANY THANKS once again to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the ARC (coming February, 2018) in exchange for an honest review. Another winner for KRISTIN HANNAH!

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,783 reviews14.2k followers
October 7, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
1,025 reviews2,976 followers
May 12, 2022
This is a great book with wonderful descriptive writing about the landscape and climate in Alaska. The majority of the book takes place there and it’s amazing to me that anyone would love to live there, mainly because the lack of much daylight all winter long, and that winter lasts nine months.

It is 1974 at the start of the book and Leni Allbright is the new girl in middle school in Seattle, at the age of thirteen she has already been in many “new” schools, having moved around the country with her parents. Her father, Ernt, can never seem to find a place that suits him, where he can find a job and be happy. He came back from Vietnam a changed man, according to her mother Cora. Leni can’t really remember her father before the war. All she knows is the constant arguing between her parents which usually ended with crying and apologies.

Ernt gets a letter from the father of a buddy whom he served with in the war. He has left his cabin and forty acres of land in Alaska to Ernt. This sounds like just the answer he has been looking for. Cora, who will do anything for Ernt because she loves him deeply, agrees to move the family there.”I need this Cora. I need a place where I can breathe again. Up there, the flashbacks and nightmares will stop. I know it”.

What follows is quite an adventure. When they arrive in the summer Alaska seems like a beautiful paradise. They learn how to garden and raise goats and chickens. Then the winter comes, with it’s six hours of sunshine a day and terrible cold. We learn what it means to survive a winter in Alaska, there are many friendly people in the small town where they live who reach out to help them stock supplies for the winter. Ernt is unhappy about the lack of money and provisions and he takes it out on Cora. Ernt is really a terrible man and now the situation has escalated into spousal physical abuse. Leni meanwhile has struck up a friendship with a local boy, Matthew, with whom she bonds immediately.

There are wonderfully described characters in this book. I loved Large Marge who would do anything to help her friends. Mad Earl is a man who is mad at the government, mad at the military and the war which took his son and a very bad influence on Ernt. Matthew is a big hearted, loving young man whose father Tom Walker is the owner of the salon in town and has lots of influence along with money. Tom and Large Marge begin to sense that things are not alright in the Allbright household but there is little they can do because Ernt won’t allow anyone to help them.

Without going into the plot I can tell you that it is constantly changing, made me carry my Kindle wherever I went to keep up with the story and there were no slow spots for me in the flow of this book. There are unexpected tragedies and heartbreak, there is love and resilience and the characters of Cora and Leni are constantly changing and growing. In the author’s acknowledgements I learned that the story is loosely based on her family’s experiences, you can google it to learn more about her family history.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a well written, beautifully descriptive book that will take you on an adventure that you won’t soon forget.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley, thank you.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,290 reviews1,332 followers
October 31, 2017
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.

Profile Image for Julie .
4,080 reviews59k followers
April 21, 2018
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a 2018 St. Main’s Press publication.

Alaska- beautiful, harsh, dangerous, addictive-

After Ernst comes home from Vietnam, he flounders, suffering from what we would now term, PTSD. His wife, Cora, sees a much different man in front of her than the one she married. But, she is determined to help him, and so when he inherits a home in Alaska, she and their thirteen -year old daughter, Leni, follow him into unchartered territory. As they begin their journey they are filled with renewed hope and optimism, but simmering underneath that forced enthusiasm, is a great deal of nervousness and trepidation.

However, they could not have possibly prepared themselves for living ‘off grid’, in this raw, startlingly beautiful landscape, which is sharply juxtaposed against the harsh, brutal winters, the intensity of mother nature, and the terrifying odds of surviving in such extreme isolation. Yet for Cora and Leni, the danger that lurks around every corner, is within the confines of their own four walls.

As a voracious reader, I am always surprised by how many amazing books and authors I have yet to sample. I have three or four Kristin Hannah novels languishing on my bookshelves that I am always meaning to read. I have heard such great things about this author, and of course, she was catapulted into the ‘household name’ club with her knock out hit- ‘The Nightingale” a couple of years back. Anyway, long story short, I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, which, of course, meant I had to read it and then review it, which is how this book, despite countless others to choose from, became my first Kristin Hannah novel.

I started this book a very long time ago, with the best of intentions of reading it prior to the release date, but became very frustrated with it almost immediately. As the awesome reviews began to trickle in, I started to get a little nervous. I wasn’t feeling it. So, I put it aside for a while. I ended up reading this novel in fits and starts until I got tired of seeing it on my bedside table, and decided to plow through until the end, whether I wanted to or not.

The subject matter is very difficult to read about, and Hannah doesn’t hold back in her depictions of abuse. It is very graphic, and I admit, as much as I enjoy a good dark and twisted tale, there are some topics I just can’t take, domestic violence being one of them. The taut atmosphere, being completely isolated, living in a cabin out in the middle of such extremes, with no one to call for help, never knowing when the next explosive confrontation would come, made this a hard book for me to consume in large quantities. It was just too nerve wracking and intense. I started to dread turning the next page.

Growing up in an era where women fought to bring these subjects out in the open, to educate the public on the patterns of abuse, I still argued with myself over Cora’s decisions to stay with Ernst. If not for herself, for her daughter!! I know, I know, Cora exhibited the classic, textbook cycle of abuse. However, I still can’t quite get past subjecting her child to that environment. Don’t judge me. I still think I’m right, although, on paper, I ‘get’ the psychology of it all. But, Leni deserved better than that. Therefore, I found myself running that loop in my head, chiding myself for judging, but unapologetic for my feelings, and ended up getting myself all upset and stressed out, as a result.

But, moving on- This is not the only problem I had with the book. Please everyone in the US. Look up 911. Learn the history of it. It was around, but not common, even in big cities. We take it for granted now, so this might not have registered, but in the early seventies, calling 911 was not a thing. I also noticed a few other gaffes, like Cora smoking on her last cigarette, only to miraculously have a fresh supply the very next morning.

I’m no expert on PTSD, and I am not making light of it, nor am I suggesting Ernst didn’t suffer from it. He did have many of the hallmark symptoms, but frankly, I’m not sure you can blame ALL his behavior on that. His was classic abusive behavior, and I suspect it might have developed no matter what. Cora was so young when she married, and I think she mythologized the ‘before and after’ scenario to make excuses to stay in the marriage, claiming her husband was ‘sick’. Oh, he was sick, all right, but not only from the effects of the war.

This was all swirling around in my head as I embarked on the second half of the book. It was dark, intense, edgy, suspenseful, but not in a way I normally like. In fact, it was downright depressing. But, then a miracle happened-

The wrinkles ironed out a little, and I was able to focus on Leni and Matthew, which was the story’s saving grace. I ended up liking the way everything turned out, even though it was sad on so many levels.

While I had been turning and tossing and fretting over this review, worrying about this 'critical' kick I’ve been experiencing lately, as I turned the last page, I had an epiphany! It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was experiencing many of the same emotions I normally feel after reading a romance novel. Then I remembered that, Hannah has also been known for her women’s fiction, which usually tends to include a little romance. This quote-

“She knew fact from fiction but couldn’t give up her love stories. They made her feel as if women could be in control of their own destinies. Even in a cruel, dark world that tested women to the very limits of their endurance, the heroines of these novels could prevail and find true love.”

OMG!! This is an epic LOVE STORY!! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. OMG!! All this time I was focused on Alaska, the landscape, the environment, the seventies, the domestic violence, the PTSD, all the points everyone spoke of in all the reviews I’d read. Love is mentioned a lot too, the mother/daughter bond, the friendships, but no one wanted to say anything about THE LOVE STORY!! No one wanted to hint around that there is romance in this story, but....

Leni was tested to the brink of her endurance, yet she prevailed and found true love and despite everything she gets her happily ever after!! It’s romance 101!!!!!!!!!!!!!


And that, my fine friends why I read love stories.

Seriously though, please, stop saying you don’t like romance, or love stories, because, yes, yes you do! It just had to be labeled as something else, so you didn’t realize that’s what you’ve been reading all along- An EPIC love story!! Leni and Matthew! Belonging, finding your tribe,family, separations, hardships, endurance, survival against all odds, true love, and happy ever afters!! Yep! It’s all there. All the elements of a great love story! No, it is certainly not a warm and fuzzy, heartwarming story, that’s for sure, But, it is highly emotional, sentimental, redeeming, and so very satisfying.

If Matthew didn't melt your heart, check your pulse, because you might be dead. And, of course, no one deserved that HEA more than Leni!! Sure, of course, it's not JUST a love story, as I've made clear at the beginning of this review, but at the end of the day, after all is said and done, that's the part of story that endures, the part that burrowed into my heart.

So, Kristin Hannah did what she does best, apparently, and pulled off a NYT bestseller, to boot. Kudos! I do understand the homage to Alaska, all of which was described beautifully. I do ‘get’ the importance of the story, the messages embedded within, and appreciated the characterizations, especially that of the supporting cast, the pacing and all the other spectacular parts of this book that resonated with so many people, not just the parts that made an impression on me.

But, there were some warts and flaws, and I think maybe the author skimmed over the research she should have done, which is why I can’t in good conscience give it a five star rating, although I am tempted to.

Still, I am SO glad, despite the initial emotional drain, that I eventually finished it. It turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding read. These characters will pass through my thoughts on many occasions in the future and I will wonder how they are doing from time to time, but I know they are going to make it just fine!!

4 stars
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Eliza.
596 reviews1,376 followers
March 29, 2020
I am feeling extremely raw after reading this. This book is so wonderful, but also so terrible and heartbreaking. I swear, I don’t think I’ve felt this many emotions from a book in a long, long time. It made me feel happiness, sadness, rage, and love — sometimes all at the same time.

It’s funny how I ordered this book purely because of its cover and because it was about Alaska (I’m in a random stage where I want to move there). And now it’s one of my all-time favorite novels. Funny how these things work.

The Great Alone begins with the image of a wonderful little family: Cora, Ernt, and Leni. Sure, there are underlying problems but every family has problems, so you don’t think much about them. That is, until the story continues and you begin finding out bits and pieces of things you didn’t have a clue were going on.

Segueing away from that for a moment, the main character (for the most part), Leni, is an absolute joy. The novel starts off when she is thirteen and ends with her being twenty-five, so you get to see her grow tremendously. Regardless, Lori is not your average thirteen-year-old. She is smart and realistic, and I was often shocked by her interpretations of the world around her.

Her mother, Cora, otherwise known as “Mama,” is an awesome character, too. I really liked her, flaws and all, because of how much she loved Leni and would do anything for her (even though it doesn’t seem like that at first - but trust me, it’s there). Not only that, but the mother and daughter bond that Leni and Cora share is so similar to my mama and I, that I loved this book even more for their bond. That’s not to say that my father is like Ernt — he’s not — but I’ve always been closer to my mama.

All the other characters: Ernt, who I don’t like, for good reason, but I sympathize with because of what he’d gone through in war; Large Marge, who is hilarious and an ex-lawyer (that surprised me!); Mr. Walker, who I’m still upset Cora didn’t end up with because he’s a sweetheart; Matthew, who I freaking love and he had almost, almost made me cry when we had that accident. And of course, all the other characters were wonderful and realistic — but these were the ones that left a lasting impression.

All of the descriptive scenery and realistic dialogue and believable characters just goes to show you how good of a writer Kristin Hannah is. As a lawyer turned writer, I wouldn’t expect any less. People might be surprised to know, but lawyers have to be really good writers!

Honestly, Hannah has become an instant buy author for me. Just like that. I have another one of her books in my room, which will definitely be read sooner than later now because I swear her writing and storytelling is brilliant and oh so heartbreaking.

Overall I tried not to spoil too much in my review, because half of this book's charm comes from all of its twists and turns. Seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough. It won’t disappoint you — but it may break your heart.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
506 reviews1,488 followers
February 27, 2018
I think Kristen Hannah is like a fine wine. With each new novel, she gets better and better.
Thirteen year old Leni and her parents move to the Alaskan wilderness as a possible solution to her dad's illness. He suffers from PTSD having returned from Vietnam broken, with an extreme vision and little survival skills.
Once the harshness of winter sets in, the human spirit is tested in a family whose relationship is already in a delicate balance; the lack of daylight brings with it the challenges of isolation and survival. The darkness envelopes them and tempers are shorter. Abuse becomes the weapon of choice for her father to battle the inner demons that visit him almost daily.
The sacrifices both her and her mother make as a means of survival come at a high cost. Even love is a threat in this environment. The wildness of Alaska will either break them or strengthen who they are and who they will come to be.
This is Hannah's crown jewel. 5⭐️
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
February 18, 2018
4 Stars.

Alaska, 1974: This is the story of the trials and tribulations of the Allbright family. Life has not been easy for Ernt, Cora or their daughter Leni. Ernt is a POW, home from Vietnam. He is now prone to fits of anger and extreme violence. Ernt considers alcohol to be his savior – yet for his wife and daughter, it is the devil.

After coming home from the war, Ernt feels as though he doesn’t fit in anywhere and that everyone is against him. In an incredible turn of events, a home is bequeathed to Ernt in Kaneq, Alaska and he feels that it is has last chance. Wanting to make him happy and keep him calm, Cora and Leni agree. The move is one for which they are wholly unprepared. Winters are fierce, harsh and absolutely terrifying. There are only 6 hours of sunlight a day, and the conditions are dire.

The atmosphere and the wilderness however, give something to Leni Allbright that she has never had before, peace and solitude. If only it was enough. Cora is a woman who fell very hard for a man who treats her the way that no woman should ever be treated. Her family is trapped in a vicious cycle, one whose demons it seems impossible to out run, even after having reached the ends of the earth.

“The Great Alone” is a novel so full of beautiful, vivid descriptions that I could close eyes and see the land, the mountains, the water: the immense beauty that is Alaska - even though I have never been there before. The characters are captivating and rich. They made me so very anxious at times, I couldn’t help but clench my fists and hold on for dear life, yet they also made me love. “The Great Alone” is my first Kristin Hannah novel – it will not be my last.

This was Traveling Sister Read. The discussion for this book was very lively and full of emotion. I was glad to have my sisters close while I read it!

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley, Goodreads, Amazon and Twitter on 2.17.18.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,203 reviews3,052 followers
July 19, 2019
This book was so very hard to read. The year is 1974 and Ernt Allbright, his wife Cora, and thirteen year old daughter Leni, head to Alaska to make a new start. Ernt is a former POW, with nightmares, psychosis, and anger issues and when he's at his worst he is beating his wife to a pulp, too many times to count. Cora seems to think anytime that Ernt hurts her that it's her fault and doesn't seem to have it in her to realize that her daughter needs to be protected from Ernt, his crazy ideas, and his violent ways.

All of Ernt's troubles are worse during the shorter days of winter and his problems are magnified by the even shorter days of Alaska, in the winter. The family is in no way prepared for the hardships they will face on the remote property that an army buddy left to Ernt. Still, the hardy people that live in that area know everyone must work together to survive this wilderness and they are willing to help Ernt and his family, if only Ernt will accept help. But Ernt wants no help even though he desperately needs it, for his mental illness problems, for surviving the Alaskan wilderness, for his inability to get along with others.

Really this book is about Leni and how she survives life with a mentally ill father and a mother who is incapable of protecting her child from domestic violence. Cora "could" protect her child if she wanted to do so but Cora is damaged too and won't put her child ahead of the wants of Ernt. Alaska is a character in this book, along with the interesting townsfolk and neighbors. Leni finds and loses love thanks to her father and the story tells her struggles through the years. Once she is away from Alaska it never leaves her mind and it's clear that it will always be a part of her.

Profile Image for Sara.
204 reviews140 followers
January 5, 2020
This book is almost one of the best books I have ever read next to where the crawdads sing by delia owens , I'm 100 % sure that I love these kind of books , a coming of age story in a nature setting but don't let the cover trick you it is so much more , so keep in mind that this book has trigger warnings for domestic violence , alcohol abuse,... so make sure to check those out first , seriously
guys just read this book it made my heart sing but also made me tear up and furious with anger , 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
February 4, 2018
I can't say the last time I DNFed a book with 50 pages left to read but this novel forced my hand. I like to think I can read novels with characters whose actions are foreign to my own so I did accept Cora's psychological dependence on Ernt, even though he liked to beat her and apologize and drink and blame his Vietnam experiences- without ever trying to get help. I even understood the whole 'move to Alaska' idea, uprooting your teenage daughter and putting her life in danger because you're unbalanced and don't know much about living in the wild. But Hannah keeps pushing and leaves reality far behind. She falls down a drama rabbit hole, piling on ever more trauma to the point where I expected Pennywise the Clown to appear and pull Leni into a sewer.

I loved The Nightingale so am confused as to where this novel came from.
Profile Image for Dez the Bookworm.
279 reviews113 followers
April 11, 2023
Could. Not. Put. This. DOWN! Great storyline, easy read, intriguing unfolding of events. Curl up and hunker down, plan to stay up late or get up early, cause this book grabs you.

This is a coming of age story full of mystery, love, growth and fear. You pull for the main character every page turn, wondering what’s going to happen next, and how.

Highly recommend this if you want to feel every emotion under the sun!
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
July 21, 2019
*4.5 stars* rounded up for The Great Alone!

THE GREAT ALONE by KRISTIN HANNAH is an absolutely wonderful, spellbinding, powerful, tense, touching, and heartbreaking domestic family drama story that was an all-consuming and emotional read for me.  I was totally captivated with what I was reading and it was extremely hard for me to put down. I couldn’t think of anything else but this story and I don’t think I have felt so many different emotions from reading a book in quite some time. The way that The Great Alone made me feel is exactly how I like to feel when reading a book!  

KRISTIN HANNAH delivers an impressive, well-written and beautifully descriptive story here that takes you on an emotional adventure of the Allbright family which is set in remote Alaska in the 1970’s.  I fell in love with the character of Leni and genuinely cared for her and her wellbeing throughout this whole novel.

The storyline was so engaging, the characters are all so well-developed, the setting was absolutely fantastic and the ending was bittersweet but satisfying.  Highly recommend!

Published: February 6th, 2018

Thank you so much to my fellow Traveling Sisters for another wonderful reading experience!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a review!

Review written and posted on our themed book blog:
Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading

Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
Where I live I am surrounded by Coulees!
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