Nancy's Reviews > The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
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it was amazing
bookshelves: bookclub

Chosen by my book club, I picked up this book uncertain if I would connect with it. But it grabbed me immediately, and brought up incredibly strong feelings. The compelling audio narration made me reflect on my own troubled childhood, and gave me much food for thought.

First set in 1974, Leni is a thirteen year old girl in California whose father was a POW in the Vietnam War, and has come back a changed man. Leni's mother Cora clings to the remnants of the man she loved before the war, and is positive her love will heal him. When Ernt discovers a fallen soldier friend of his has willed him his land and cabin in Alaska, he thinks it is just the chance he needs to start life anew. The Allbright family is completely unprepared for the rigors of Alaska's winters but they are blessed to find a community of homesteaders who offer friendship and teach them how to live off the land. But the long dark winters prove to be too much for Ernt and he falls into deep depressions and he beats Cora and terrorizes Leni. Kind neighbors step in to help and four years pass with Cora and Leni always on eggshells, waiting for Ernt's next violent outburst. When Leni is a senior in high school she falls in love with Matthew, the son of a neighbor that Ernt despises. When their romance is discovered, Leni's life is upended when her father attacks her. Cora makes a radical decision, and their life is forever changed. Written in three distinct time periods, the conclusion moves a few years into the future, and we get a long epilogue on Cora and Leni's life, and we learn how the decision they made on one fateful night reverberates for them and others.

This family drama was filled with very real characters, and while I was angry and disturbed by some of them, it is a testament to author Kristin Hannah's writing skills. Ernt's alcoholic rages reminded me of my violent father and Cora's twisted dynamic with her husband made me think less of her. That Leni had resilience in the midst of the turmoil was the saving grace in this dysfunctional family. Hannah's description of Alaska is a love-letter to our frontier state, and I was not surprised to read that she was raised there for some of her childhood. This beautifully told story of survival (both physical and emotional) will stay with me.
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Reading Progress

March 11, 2018 – Started Reading
March 11, 2018 – Shelved
April 15, 2018 – Shelved as: bookclub
April 22, 2018 – Finished Reading

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