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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  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 448 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 ...

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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.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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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

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

lalni

Fractured families and the wilderness
For those of you who have read Hannah's previous novel, do not expect a carbon copy of her work. This new book is, however, a wonderfully atmospheric and poignant look at the Alaska wilderness, PTSD, and fractured families. 13 year old old Lani ...   Read More

Veronica

Breathtaking
I read this book in one setting. I couldn't put it down. The characters just captured me and kept me enthralled. I visited Alaska in the 70's and the descriptions of the state are right on. Beautiful, but brutal. Just as the characters were beautiful...   Read More

Roe P

Get ready to stay up late!
Ms Hannah really knows how to tell a story. This book has it all...Adventure, Love, Tragedy, Mystery. It takes place in the 70's in rural Alaska. At times while reading this book you actually feel like you are right there beside the characters. I ...   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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