Updated: Jul 14, 2019
A spellbinding family drama of survival set on the wild and rugged side of the Kenai peninsula of Alaska.
SUMMARY It’s 1974, gas prices are up, the country had been divided over the Vietnam war, and women had begun to disappear in Washington State without a trace. Leni Allbright, 13, was the new girl at another new school, with no friends other than her dog eared copy of Watership Down. She was worried about her family. Her parent were always fighting, they never had enough money and they moved all the time to get away from creditors. Her dad, Ernt, had been a Vietnam vet, who had gotten shot down and captured. He’d come home four years ago a changed and volatile man. He hated the government, thought it was being run by lunatics. Now he had another plan to change their lives, he’d had lot of plans in the past. But this plan involved moving to a cabin in Kenaq, Alaska on the Kenai penninsula. This, he said, was a place they could be self-sufficient and live off the land and have a simpler life. It was just the change Ernt thought he needed in order to forget the torture he endured in Vietnam.
But when they got to Alaska, things were no better. The property and cabin were in shambles and the family had arrived ill prepared. The welcoming Kaneq community swept in to help the Allbright’s prepare for the upcoming winter and for being off the grid. The work was hard, the winter was dark, and the drinking was easy. Ernt’s drinking and jealousy got the better of him and he took it out on his wife, Cora, who was always quick to forgive the man she loved. Leni has finally made a friend at school, a boy. Matthew is about the only person in school who is even close to her age. But her dad doesn’t approve. Matthew is the son of Tom Walker, a man of money and influence over the town, a man who Ernt detests.
It’s Leni’s come of age story, as she and her mom face the dark harsh winters and her father’s relentless demons in the small snow covered cabin. It the story of human frailty, strength and survival.
Leni was afraid to stay and afraid to leave. It was strange—stupid, even—but she often felt like the only adult in her family, as if she were the ballast that kept the creaky Allbright boat on an even keel.
REVIEW THE GREAT ALONE is a stunning family drama! Having made a recent trip to Alaska I was so excited about the setting for this novel. As anyone who has been to Alaska knows, pictures don’t do it justice and its rugged beauty is impossible to describe. But KRISTIN HANNAH did a marvelous job painting the natural backdrop with magnificent and vivid details. Her descriptions were intoxicating.
Hannah expertly delivers a family story, not soon forgotten. She effortlessly blends a father with PTSD, a fragile mother and victim of spousal abuse, and Leni, who just wants to fit in somewhere, but carries the weight of her families secrets in her heart. The mother-daughter bond between Cora and Leni is so strong it’s palpable, making the story all the more poignant. It is together that these two women face the backbreaking work, the dangers from the land, and the havoc at home. It is out of necessity that Leni quickly grows into a strong young woman. The Kaneq community characters are all refreshingly unique, and you can’t help but fall in love with the general store owner, Large Marge, and her larger than life personality.
Hannah’s writing is fast and fluid, and kept me reading long into the night. It is an arresting story of modern day homesteading that would make an excellent movie.
Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Kristin Hannah for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Book Published February 6, 2018.