Evie Braithwaite's Reviews > The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
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it was amazing
bookshelves: drama, favourites, fiction, historical-fiction

This book completely stole my heart.

The Great Alone follows the life of the Allbrights, a family of three who arrive in the harsh wilderness of 1970s Alaska in hope of a fresh start. They must work laboriously night and day to survive the extreme Alaskan winter, but we soon learn that for 13-year-old Leni and her mother, Cora, there are dangers far closer to home.

The most alluring aspects of The Great Alone are the awe-inspiring descriptions of Alaska’s vast landscape. I could almost feel the bitter cold of the infamous perilous winters but also visualise its wild panoramic beauty. Hannah’s illustrious writing adds a fairy tale quality to everything, detailing the bountiful artistry of the natural world.

The Great Alone is a story of survival. Winter pushes the Allbrights to their limits, and Ernt's mental state progressively deteriorates. He hasn’t been the same since returning from the Vietnam war; he’s violent, paranoid and threatens the safety of his loved ones. So, the family aren’t only raising livestock and preparing for the notoriously long winter ahead, but Leni and Cora also must learn to survive the fragile, abusive dynamics which exist within their own home. This spirals out to become an emotional family saga about courage, the power of love and friendship, and an unshakable bond between parent and child. Leni and Cora are ‘peas in a pod’, and their stubbornness drove me to insanity at times. However, they sacrifice so much to protect one another that their unbreakable connection was so admirable.

There’s a charming cast of secondary characters who make up the story’s close-knit community. Living within their own isolated bubble in the tiny outpost near Homer, they experience snowstorms, near-death experiences and animal encounters. All this, as well as the heartening bonds they’ve created, makes for an utterly enthralling read.

As the months get colder, Hannah presents a sickeningly co-dependent marriage in which Cora makes excuses for Dad’s violence and refuses to tell anyone what’s happening to her, no matter how bad it gets. Eventually, the community begin to recognise the trouble within the Allbright home, and conflicts begin to arise. I took a shine to Large Marge who can be counted on to help the Allbright women whenever they need her. She’s a constant reminder that they’re not alone, no matter how isolated they feel.

I also can’t not mention the romance. After years apart, Leni and Matthew’s anticipated reunion in 1978 had my heart in shreds. I can’t remember the last time I felt such dedication to a literary couple. Hannah perfectly illustrates the first signs of infatuation; the teenage confusion, the intoxicating head rush whenever he looks her way. Hannah’s writing evoked such pain from their circumstantial separation that I physically ached when the time came.

Leni was incredible. Over the course of the story, she shared secrets, longings, and of course, I resonated with her adoration for books and their escapism.

“Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I’ve got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place.”

Her issues were dramatic enough to keep me hooked. The final quarter of the book comprised some of the most devastating pages I’ve ever read. Racing through the pages, my mind was running with all sorts of emotions.

Ultimately, the wildness of Alaska will either break you or strengthen you. The Great Alone was at once a thought-provoking and captivating read with charming characters who contribute to Leni’s improbable survival and salvation. It was heart-breaking while also full of such love and kindness, ending on a satisfying bittersweet note which I know I’ll still be thinking about for years to come.

I couldn’t recommend this more.
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Quotes Evie Liked

Kristin Hannah
“Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I’ve got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place.”
Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone

Reading Progress

December 4, 2018 – Shelved
December 4, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 29, 2019 – Started Reading
March 31, 2019 –
page 198
April 1, 2019 –
page 291
April 2, 2019 – Finished Reading
April 5, 2019 – Shelved as: drama
April 5, 2019 – Shelved as: favourites
April 5, 2019 – Shelved as: fiction
April 5, 2019 – Shelved as: historical-fiction

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