Summary and book reviews of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone

by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah X
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2019, 608 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of The Nightingale, comes a story of a family in crisis and a young girl struggling to survive at the edge of the world, in America's last true frontier.

In 1974, when thirteen-year-old Leni Allbright's volatile, unpredictable father, Ernt, a former POW, loses another job, he makes an impulsive, desperate decision: he will move the family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the land in a spectacular wilderness.

At first, the eighteen hour sunlit Alaskan summer days and the generosity of the locals make up for the family's lack of preparation and dwindling resources, but winter in Alaska will reveal their every weakness. As the vast Alaskan landscape grows smaller and smaller in the darkness, Ernt's fragile mental state deteriorates, and the dangers outside of their remote homestead pale in comparison to the danger within. On their small piece of land, miles from anyone, Leni and her mother, Cora, learn what all Alaskan homesteaders learn: they are on their own. There is no one to save them this far from civilization.

At once an epic story of human survival and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone, offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah once again delivers a can't-put-down novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable, enduring strength of women. A novel as big and spectacular as Alaska itself.

ONE

That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops. Water found its way into the smallest cracks and undermined the sturdiest foundations. Chunks of land that had been steady for generations fell like slag heaps on the roads below, taking houses and cars and swimming pools down with them. Trees fell over, crashed into power lines; electricity was lost. Rivers flooded their banks, washed across yards, ruined homes. People who loved each other snapped and fights erupted as the water rose and the rain continued.

Leni felt edgy, too. She was the new girl at school, just a face in the crowd; a girl with long hair, parted in the middle, who had no friends and walked to school alone.

Now she sat on her bed, with her skinny legs drawn up to her flat chest, a dog-eared paperback copy of Watership Down open beside her. Through the thin walls of the rambler, she heard her mother say, Ernt, baby, please don't. Listen … and her father's angry leave me the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Before reading the book, what was your perception of life in Alaska? What surprised you?
  2. "The wild, spectacular beauty of Alaska. It was otherworldly somehow, magical in its vast expanse, an incomparable landscape of soaring glacier-filled white mountains that ran the length of the horizon, knife-tip points pressed high into a cloudless, cornflower blue sky." (22) The author describes the Alaskan landscape with such electric language—what passages did you find the most moving? Did they help you visualize the place or inspire you? Did you find the landscape to be in contrast to the violence of the story? Or do you think it complemented the breathtaking feeling of young love?
  3. What aspects of the lifestyle would you find ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Her ability to describe the beauty of the harsh Alaskan country is perhaps the book's best feature. There are, however, aspects of the novel that don't live up to the quality of the author's writing in my opinion. I also found the plot somewhat uneven, at times being overly predictable and at others taking improbably twists that challenge credulity. The author starts to develop plotlines but later they're mysteriously dropped. Although I found The Great Alone to be a mixed bag, I imagine Hannah's fans will be able to overlook the book's flaws and enjoy both the beauty of her prose and the romance at the core of the story...continued

Full Review (541 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Library Journal
In this latest from Hannah, the landscape is hard and bleak but our young heroine learns to accept it and discover her true self...fans will appreciate the astuteness of the story and the unbreakable connection between mother and child.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Hannah skillfully situates the emotional family saga in the events and culture of the late '70s... But it's her tautly drawn characters--Large Marge, Genny, Mad Earl, Tica, Tom--who contribute not only to Leni's improbable survival but to her salvation amid her family's tragedy.

Booklist
Hannah vividly evokes the natural beauty and danger of Alaska and paints a compelling portrait of a family in crisis and a community on the brink of change.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. There are many great things about this book...It will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet-like coming of age story and domestic potboiler. She recreates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders...and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America. A tour de force.

Reader Reviews

Lynn M. Castro

The Great Alone
Kristin Hannah is a brilliant story teller. If life can be hard, life is harder in Alaska. Leni, the main character moves here from Washington with her mother and her father, a POW who is suffering from PTSD, and trying to escape the inner turmoil ...   Read More
Beckyh

a terrifying love story
Which would you rather do? Die by freezing, starving or being mauled to death by “Alaska” or die at the hands of your abusive, PTSD addled father? Hannah has written a tense, terrifying love story. But is it a story of love for the beautiful ...   Read More
B. Stalzer

So Worth Your Time
Reading this novel I felt I was watching a story unfold page by page, character by character. It showed the beauty and allure of Alaska along with the reality of life in Alaska which was as difficult as it was wonderful. The people in town became ...   Read More
Kelly Probst

A Great Read
I don't claim to be an avid book reader and I won't attempt to offer a 'clever critique'. This novel was passed on by a friend, we both lived in Anchorage, Alaska during the 1970's. The Great Alone did an amazing job of depicting the era and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Bard of the Yukon

The Great Alone takes its title from a line in "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," a poem composed by Robert W. Service, whose work inspires the main character throughout the book.

Robert W. Service Robert W. Service (1874-1958), known as "The Bard of the Yukon," was born in Lancashire, England, the son of a banker and an heiress. He was sent to Kilwinning, Scotland at the age of five to live with his paternal grandfather and three unmarried aunts, who spoiled him shamelessly. He's said to have written his first poem there — an improvised grace — at the age of six, much to the delight and astonishment of his relatives.

God bless the cakes and bless the jam;
Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:
Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,
And ...

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