The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2017) – Fiction
This book has been on my reading list for a while and what a time to read a book set in the backdrop of Alaskan isolation than right now. While my self-distancing is no where near the level of what it is like to settle on the Alaskan frontier, I could somewhat relate to the loneliness.
The Great Alone is about a girl named Leni. She lives with her mother Cora and her father Ernt. Ernt is a Vietnam war veteran and the story plays within the historical time period of America circa 1970s.
People are disillusioned with the world, no one more so than Ernt. Suffering from PTSD but with no real help available, he moves his family from the Pacific Northwest to an Alaskan peninsula. No running water, no indoor plumbing, no electricity. Leni, with no real ties to ground her, thrives in a place that gives her purpose. While the Alaskan winter is brutal and the terrain threatening, she finds herself amongst the wilderness and the other wild people that live nearby and call wild Alaska home.
Hannah writes beautiful scenes describing Alaska and makes you wish you could get on a plane and go there. With this beauty, she also writes and describes heartbreaking scenes of domestic violence. Leni plays witness to her dad’s violence towards her mother. Was this violence always there? Or did the violence of the war turn him? Does Alaska just make the darkness inside him worse? Leni attempts to try and figure these questions out.
With only a small village nearby, Leni copes with loneliness by quickly falling in love with a boy named Matthew. Matthew is kind and enjoys reading, especially The Lord of the Rings trilogy, just as much as Leni. Conflict ensues however. Ernt despises any male that even looks at Cora, and Matthew’s dad Tom makes that mistake.
From then on, Matthew’s and Leni’s paths are divided and the story revolves around them finding their way back to each other. It is hard for me to go into too much detail, this book spans quite a time period. My paperback of this book also clocks in at 500 pages plus, but it reads generally fast. A few chapters might drag, sometimes delaying the ending needlessly.
It is a great read and one of those books I wouldn’t be surprised if turned into a movie soon. Kristin Hannah is an author of over 20 novels. The Great Alone was named best book of 2018 from the New York Post, Oprah’s “Best Books of the Year” list, and winner of other numerous awards.
Lover of the written word.