- Title: The Great Alone
- Author: Kristin Hannah
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Year: 2018
- Synopsis: Ernt Allbright 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. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, hopes that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. 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. But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture.
The Great Alone is an impactful story that explores the family dynamics of a dysfunctional and toxic home environment while maintaining small glimpses and moments of hope.
Leni is the protagonist, and we witness her life experiences at different stages, making this a well-rounded coming-of-age story, starting from when she’s 13 up until she’s 24. It was easy to connect with Leni. She’s a quiet girl who loves to read. I enjoyed how her taste in books also transformed over time. The story ends with an article written by her where she reflects on her past, so we can conclude that she’s somewhere around middle age by then.
The detailed descriptions of the scenery will make you fall in love and be in awe of Alaska and its landscapes. It makes you wonder how can a place so beautiful be at the same so cruel.
I found the mother-daughter bond between Leni and Cora heartwarming and admirable. As readers, we can find hundreds of reasons to criticize Cora and call her a bad mother. Of course Cora made awful mistakes by allowing her daughter to live in an environment of domestic violence, but as many domestic violence victims, she believed her husband would change. She refused to see the red flags and was under the gaslighting spell of Ernt. A relationship built out of fear instead of true love. And Leni instead of rebelling against everyone like any ordinary teenager, stays at her mother’s side regardless, being aware that her mother needed help.
Leni has more luck when it comes to love. The friendship between Matthew and her grow into something more as they become older. They are just two kinds in love, and their relationship marks the climax point of the story. Like Romeo and Juliet, the outcome of their relationship turns into tragedy, affecting both families greatly. But considering the ending, it could’ve been worse, Kristin Hannah could’ve made it more tragic but she didn’t. And what a relief, because Leni deserved to be happy.
So far I’ve only read two books by Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale and this one. If I were to compare them, I’d still say The Nightingale is my favorite. The ending it had affected me more for some reason. Nonetheless, I found The Great Alone engaging and emotional. The type of story I won’t be forgetting because of the rawness and authenticity of the characters.
Definitely worth the read!