Earlier this summer I showcased nine titles I intended to read while I was on my summer break from school. The Great Alone is one of them, a book I don't want to slip off my radar or get put at the bottom of my TBR piles. I brought it along on vacation and devoured it.
Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale has been a book that I've heard many friends rave about. I loved it myself. But by the time I read The Nightingale, Hannah was already one of my go-to authors, and I had read almost everything else she had written. I had high expectations for anything she wrote. And of course, The Nightingale more than lived up to those expectations.
I was a little more interested in what she would write after The Nightingale. That novel has been so highly praised, that anything to come after it would have big shoes to fill.
And yet, I think Hannah managed to create another praise-worthy novel.
I read both criticism and praise of The Great Alone before I read it myself, so I certainly didn't go into the novel without any previous information. It is one of my five star reads of 2018, and I found it hard to put down.
Leni Allbright is just a teenager when she and her parents relocate to Alaska for a fresh start. Her father, Ernt, has returned from Vietnam where he was a POW, damaged by the war. Her mother's love for her husband clouds her judgement, and despite his temper and the violence he displays, continues to stay with him.
Alaska is brutal, yet beautiful. The community embraces the Allbrights, helping them set up their home and prepare for the winter ahead. And Ernt attaches himself to a group of people who believe in their own brand of justice and government. Things seem to be going well, but the darkness that comes with winter brings out the worst in Ernt as the demons within cannot be controlled.
The one aspect of this book I have seen even critics praise, is Hannah's depiction of Alaska in the 1970s - the bleakness, the solitude, the danger - is conveyed so well. I felt transported to this time period, as though I were a part of this wild and untamed place.
I loved Leni, and despite feeling frustrated with her mother, I really liked her, too. Whatever criticism there has been about her - her decision to stay with Ernt despite his abuse- I felt like the decisions she made were ones that were realistic for that time period. (At one point Cora does attempt to get a credit card, but cannot do that without the signature of her father or husband. This was what life was like in the 1970s for women).
The ending may be a little to nicely wrapped up for my taste, but overall, I really loved this book.
And of course, I'm already interested in what Hannah will create next.