abby's Reviews > The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
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Kristin Hannah wrote 70% of a novel and then 30% of a soap opera.

I know this isn't likely to be a popular opinion. Hannah is an incredibly popular writer whose books sell into the millions. This might be a case of "it's not you, it's me." The same problems I found in her sentinel work The Nightingale came back to haunt The Great Alone: weak female characters, use of death and tragedy as plot devises, and an overwrought, melodramatic narrative. People who liked Hannah's earlier work, will probably love this book. But if you've not been a fan in the past, don't expect much to change with this Alaskan tale.

The book starts when Leni Allbright is thirteen, awkward, and unable to fit in anywhere. It doesn't help that her parents are constantly moving her around the country. Her father, Ernt, is chasing that next big opportunity that will make him happy for good. Her mother, Cora, is hoping the next town will transform Ernt into the man he was before Vietnam. The Allbright family wind up in Alaska, in a cabin without pluming and electricity and far from any real civilization. When they arrive at the start of summer, Ernt is able to relax in the natural setting, and Cora and Leni think he might really return to how he was before the war. But as the days grow colder and the sun disappears from the sky, Ernt's demons come back with a vengeance.

Cora reminded me a lot of Vianne from The Nightingale, only with an abusive husband this time. Like her predecessor, she acts like a sad doormat the majority of the book until the moment she snaps out of character (view spoiler). Ernt is the usual abusive husband archetype-- drinking and beating and obsessing. One character I loved was Large Marge, who doesn't take any prisoners and doesn't suffer any fools. But I almost felt like making Marge an African-American in Alaska and obese gave her the "excuse" not to be yet another shrinking violet.

I actually quite liked the first 70% of the book. I was rooting for Leni, I enjoyed her friendship with Matthew, the understanding boy next homestead over, and I was waiting for Ernt's dangerous end-of-the-world prepping to come to a head. This book really brings Alaska and off-grid living to life. But then it all fell apart.

I feel like Hannah wanted to make her readers sad, so they would feel things, and isn't it a good book if it makes you cry? So lets kill off some characters. Heck, let's kill off all the characters! Teenage pregnancy? Sure, that's juicy stuff and very romantic. Wait, I killed off too many characters? There's a fix for that. Perfect bittersweet ending! The last hundred pages made me hate how much I enjoyed the first three hundred pages. I don't think I'll be picking up another Kristin Hannah book any time soon.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.
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Reading Progress

November 29, 2017 – Shelved
November 29, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
January 20, 2018 – Started Reading
January 20, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 22, 2018 –
26.0%
January 23, 2018 –
58.0% "I love Large Marge so much."
January 23, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 92 (92 new)


message 1: by Jay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jay Schutt I was hoping for a review. I'm considering this one.


abby It's coming. I'm impatient, so I always rate a couple days before I get the review together.


*TUDOR^QUEEN* Loved your review! I'm reading this right now.


abby *TUDOR^QUEEN* wrote: "Loved your review! I'm reading this right now."

I hope you wind up liking it more than I did! That's on me though. I didn't read The Nightingale until after requesting this one.


Sarah Cook Well said. This was exactly how I felt too.


Cheryl Ballard I just finished the book and was somewhat disappointed. Upon reading your review II felt like you read my mind. It started out great and then went downhill for me. I did enjoy the Nighingale. I sometimes think I expect too much from a book.


message 7: by Taryn (new)

Taryn I love your review! I'm curious about this one since I liked The Nightingale, but I think I'll stick to audiobook versions with this author!


message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Exactly how I felt! Someone asked me how I liked the book - I loved it, until the last 100 pages or so. It moved from slow paced simpler living love story to lifetime movie.


Elyse Walters I get what you are saying!!!


message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura Knowles I felt exactly the same way. I initially really enjoyed this book - such a strong sense of place and feeling of menace. It then just falls apart and is awash with melodrama.


Jenna Could not agree with you more!


message 12: by abby (new) - rated it 3 stars

abby Amy wrote: "Exactly how I felt! Someone asked me how I liked the book - I loved it, until the last 100 pages or so. It moved from slow paced simpler living love story to lifetime movie."

Lifetime Movie is a great way to describe it. Thanks :)


Helene Spot on.


Megan Agree completely. Was surprised Hannah didn't have Matthew punch Leni in the face and then add 400 pages more of Matthew Jr.'s life in AK with his abusive parents. What hokey crap!


message 15: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin I felt the same way! My book club is reading this right now and I made a comment that Hannah likes to kill off character's to make a "meaningful" ending and I can't say I was surprised that she did it here--just disappointed. I won't be reading any more of her books.


message 16: by Ryan (new) - rated it 1 star

Ryan Mclemore I am about 1/3 finished--this was my first book purchase prompted by an ad (at least my first conscious one). the rave reviews and setting finalized the deal. I came here to see if this was young adult. I'm having a very hard time pushing forward.


Kathleen Good review, Abby.


message 18: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Wow. I loved it


message 19: by Vicky (last edited Mar 17, 2018 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Vicky I'm having a hard time getting through this one KH is an excellent writer but I find the book depressing at best and hard to get through! The characters don't resonate with me. An excellent review!


Rachel Great review....I just read Firefly lane and HATED it. The melodrama was too much to bear. I was debating reading this book bc the reviews are so high and then I read this review and it sounds exactly like my thoughts of firefly Lane. I’m going to skip it.....it’s not “you” it’s US LOL


Heidi Great review - I am at the point where it is hitting the hallmark moments mixed with melodrama and unbelievable stuff, so am very disappointed, as I loved the first part of the book!


message 22: by Holly (new) - added it

Holly  B Enjoyed your review!


message 23: by Elease (new)

Elease Thank you so much - I couldn't stop rolling my eyes through The Nightingale. I was wondering if this one would be any different... On to the next book on my to-read list!


message 24: by Alta (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alta Featherstone I am about halfway through this novel and am finding it lacking in any depth. After reading all the rave reviews, I was wondering what I was missing. Thank you for putting into words my exact sentiments of this book. I doubt if I read any other books by this author. (If indeed I even manage to finish this one.) I will have to put her in my Danielle Steele category...even though wildly popular with other people she is like chicken pox for me...once is enough.


Katrinka Thank you for these reviews, which echo my opinion......I liked the Alaskan descriptions.....heartfelt..but characters did not reach me....plot shallow......the same problems as I felt in "The Nightingale".


60's Bookstore Kid I'm in total agreement with your review. The cover should have depicted a hint that it was a "Romance Novel".


Katrinka Abby, loved your review before I knew it was you! Felt validated because I wanted to love this book.....even though I did not love "The Nightingale"..... and it was just as you said. Keep in touch! Trinka


Selysse Abby, I agree with your take of 70% great/30% soap opera. I felt that getting Leni pregnant was a predictable cop-out, especially since she says, several times in the narrative, that she doesn't even know if she wants kids. But I generally liked the book.


Susan I am currently within the last 75 pgs and I agree with you Abby. I did like the first 300 pages but really couldn't wait for Ernt to die already. When he finally did. She should have completed the book. The rest seems like fluffery. Disappointed.


Becky Zagor AMEN, sister!


Leslie Kitchin I agree with your review. I just finished the book and gave it two stars. I did not write a review. I agreed with the one and two star reviews on Amazon. I really did not like this book.


Elizabeth Bass I am so with you on this. I feel like I was duped into reading a Young Adult Fiction novel. And thank you for describing Cora and Leni as “weak female characters,” because that’s exactly what they were. Even though I try not to think, “now what would I do if...,” it was disappointing to be stuck with them for nearly 400 pages of repetitive, predictable, self-destroying behaviors. Despite the reviews Hannah’s other books get, I will not be reading them!


message 33: by Valli (new) - added it

Valli Ostrowski I just finished this book and I loved the book up until the death of Ernt. After that I agree with the review here. The one thing I was disappointed in was the happy ending. Matthew makes almost a full recovery and they end up getting married. I thought it would have been a stronger book of Hannah hadn't shied away from a bittersweet ending where Matthew did not recover to the extent he had. I was really hoping she wouldn't go with the "and they all lived happily ever after" ending but she did. I was disappointed and sped through the last 20 pages.


Becky Zagor I agree as after that point, everything was too magical and fairytale and unbelievable. Too bad...


Kellie I completely agree. What started out as a beautifully written book with gorgeous prose turned emotionally manipulative, melodramatic, and sappy.


message 36: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara Alarcon Completely agree with you!


message 37: by Ysabel (new)

Ysabel Quartararo I’m glad I’m not alone in not loving this novel. I got 1/2 way through, knew what was coming, scanned some chapters & went to the end; a little too happy ending wrapped up in a nice beau! I found the writing tedious & repetitive. She could have wrapped it up in 300 pages instead of over 400. I loved the Nightingale; didn’t love this. It was a “ lucky day” book from my library. I’ll return it tomorrow & hope someone else feels luckier.


message 38: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy Linkous Bless you for being able to put into words exactly what I was feeling!


Cheryl Pease Agree completely with your review! I was totally sucked in by the story, but also felt so manipulated and hated all the tragedy - it was too much!


Melanie Agree!!


Michelle YES. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.


Teresa Roos Couldn't disagree more. Never has a book felt more real than this one. 'Weak' females?? I thought there were lots of strong females. Cora suffered from battered wife syndrome but was strong at many points in this adventure. I think this is her finest work to date.


Yvette I agree. A little too much like a Hallmark movie for me to spend hours for the Hollywood schmaltzy ending. NOT a satisfying read.


message 44: by Mary (new) - added it

Mary Good review - feeling the same way - 70% of the novel is compelling and the last30% is beach read. Not bad and it did keep me hooked.


Lisa M.S. Totally agree!


Valerie Graham I agree completely on this book; however, The Nightingale continues to be one of my most favorite books ever and I will defend it to the death! :)


Nancy I am familiar with young adult fiction so I was surprised when I checked out reviews of the book several chapters in, I found it isn't. It reads like young adult fiction to me. My favorite parts of this book were the beautiful descriptions of Alaska, since I've been to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and the accuracy of the descriptions of the '70s (Viet Nam, Women's Rights--even the gas shortage!) But I eventually became exhausted with the endlessly detailed descriptions as well as the ongoing drama--many scenes and descriptions were repetitive--and like this reviewer, I was disappointed in the developments of the last 100 pages. By the end I was seeing this story as a Lifetime movie and I don't think the author intended that. I DID love The Nightingale though, so I I'm sure I'll be checking out Hannah's next book.


shannon This. I felt the hand of the writer way too strongly throughout, i.e. "What should happen to the characters now?"


message 49: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn I agree. I put it down after 100 pages.


Yvette Ditto on both this book and The Nightingale. Both were quite good for the first 2/3, but then the books just go on and on and on w/ tragedy following tragedy ad nauseam. Uncle! And when all loose ends are tied up, cue the sentimental music, not one song but at least 5, because they, too, go on and on and on. I can’t read anymore from this author. She is much, much better than Danielle Steele (that’s not saying much), but her endings remind me too much of Steele’s writings. (Someone posted above about no bear encounters. That would have been a great plot addition.)


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