Book Review: The Great Alone By Kristin Hannah


Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.


I found this novel a bit difficult to read throughout the majority of it. I wondered how would women actually tolerate these sort of men that abuse them. But I did try so hard to understand as the year was 1974. Thank god I did because this novel turned out to make my eyes water towards the end. It was so well written. Even though at times I thought how stupid the women where or some of the decisions they made throughout.

So, the actual story itself involves this wife Cora, husband Ernt and their 13 year old daughter Leni. They head to Alaska because Ernt came back from the War and hasn’t been right since. Yeah, that’s the only reason, sure. Anyway, he goes shit-crazy and doesn’t seem to have any logic or reasoning at all and seems to think they need to live in cave like days for the rest of their lives. Why make your life more difficult than it has to be? When a friend they made, Tom Walker starts to change things for the better that is when the shit hits the fan as the saying goes. He properly goes crazy by locking the girls in their homes trying to trap them there forever. We get it, you’ve been to war but don’t abuse women or anyone for that matter and become so controlling!

Then life progresses for all of them and eventually they grow to develop their more logical reasoning and begin to see their mistakes. I did enjoy the friendships made in Alaska and how friendly they all where it was the best element of this novel I feel.

By the end, Leni has somehow grew up and survived living with a mentally de-ranged father and a mother who was incapable of protecting her child, or herself. She wasn’t a good role model accepting that sort of behaviour so of course Leni the more reasonable one here did not and could not ever leave her mother behind. Some of the scenes between these two (I listened to the audiobook) proper made me go ‘aww’ or my eyes start to water a good bit as they both realise their mistakes and their sorrows are spoken about.

This is a story of hardship and overcoming it along with the love that can be received in friendships and those around that have become more. Even though I did not like the characters decisions, by the end I have come to really enjoy it.

4/5 Stars


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