The Great Alone The Great Alone discussion


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Horrible stereotypes of a Nam vet and a battered woman.

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message 1: by Myrna (last edited Jun 10, 2018 07:59AM) (new)

Myrna Solganick I think Kristin Hannah turned back the clock in our understanding of veterans. The character Erndt is far from being a "typical" Vietnam veteran; he is a social misfit. I get that the story is about Alaska as much as anything, and she is trying to represent a "trip wire" vet (someone who has left civilization, and is living off the grid; but in doing so, she recreates the mostly false characterizations of who veterans are and and how they struggle. His wife, Cora, is terribly abused and deluded and even though he beats her bloody, he "loves" her. I understand this too, but it is hard to stomach. The story hits a fevered pitch of drama with the attack on Leni, the main character, who is ultimately more adult than either parent. Not a pretty picture, and ultimately, probably a distortion.


message 2: by Jade (last edited Jun 11, 2018 11:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jade Boory I had the impression that Erndt had exhibited controlling and abusive behaviors prior to going to Nam. I don't know if Hannah had intended to portray Erndt as "a typical" PTSD vet, or more of a perfect storm of mental illness and social dysfunction. I see Cora's character as realistic. As a reader, you are screaming at her to come to her senses and leave him and she makes the excuses that are still common for victims of abuse to make, even in this day and age. A lot of the story is hard to stomach, but feeling real emotion on the pages is one of the reasons I loved it so much.


Lori Remember that this book was set in 1972, when the Vietnam War was still painfully fresh for the recently returned Vets. PTSD was not understood as it is today. This was a tough book, but beautifully written, and engaging. I truly enjoyed it!


message 4: by Myrna (new)

Myrna Solganick True that it was set in '72, and we did not understand PTSD but PTSD was not all that was wrong with Erndt, as Jade suggests. PTSD does not create a woman abuser. It can accentuate it.


Shanna Late to the party on this one but I wanted to add that I don't think the author blamed the war for Erndt's behavior. His wife did. His daughter did. It was the excuse they used to tolerate and forgive his abuse. It wasn't the only excuse either the more common one was how intensely he loved them. The point being that when you are in that situation and are in love with someone who hurts you, you will find ways to justify that behavior. That's how I interpreted it. Also I think the revelation that her mother was only a young teen when they met and that he pulled her away from her family BEFORE the war shows that his controlling nature predated the war.


Rebecca I didn't like that either. Ernt was a pos long before the war. Otherwise why would Cora's parents have been against him from the start? I hated how Cora kept telling her daughter that this was love. Taking abuse is never love.


message 7: by John (last edited Sep 24, 2018 02:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Have known, people that came back from Nam. They were highly excitable and prone to burst of violence but...no excuse or reason for beating one's wife. NO. Violence of any kind against anyone, male or female, is not caused by war. Violence is an act of a persons' character. The book turned into a love story. My hope was that the mother and daughter would leave. The handling of Ernt was interesting and enjoyable. 4 stars for me.


Elizabeth I didn't enjoy this book, although I doggedly plowed through it to finish it. I have seen many women who are apologists for men's bad behavior (and vice versa) and am not interested in reading about either. It is one thing to endanger yourself, another to endanger your child.


message 9: by Anita (new) - added it

Anita Quite frankly, I thought this was one of the worst books I've ever read. Manipulative and contrived.


Sherrie Everyone I have talked to about this book has loved it! It took me longer to get through the first few chapters but once she started growing up, I was hooked. I could imagine the cabin, camps, the abuse...Very well written!


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