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The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah
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I'm stingy with 5 stars. Having lived in Alaska, I'm always curious about how a writer depicts the life there. This was a good portrayal. When the Allbrights arrived, their neighbors helped them prepare for the long, dark, cold winter days. People in Alaska are incredibly generous in that way. Is it the Last Frontier? Yes. The story is wrapped up nicely, and happily. Before that, there are incidents that reflect the danger and challenges of life in Alaska. ( )
I loved the "Call of the Wild" adventure side of the book. A troubled family's search to find a new life in the Alaskan wilderness. The wilderness is at once a terrible and beautiful place to live. The book deals with a toxic love between husband and wife. He, a once handsome and charming man, delivered home from the POW camps in Nam with soul crushing depression and anger. But mother and daughter try their best to have some sort of normal life, until they can't.
I recall seeing a FB post recently that said "You couldn't heal because you couldn't admit you were broken." So tragic.
The book was purchased from my local library sale.
I don’t think this is going to make my list of favorites, but I’m giving it 5 stars for how complete a story it was, and how it made me feel, and how captivating the characters were.
I think part of the reason I’m not putting it in the favorites category is that there is a main stressor in the story and I felt like once it was taken away, the story should’ve ended— but it went on and on. I found without that very large threat, I was no longer on edge or as interested.
The first 2/3rds of the book was a fantastic journey, one I won’t soon forget!!
At book club, we start out with the simple question, "Did you like the book?" Yes, I liked the book. So, why only 3 stars? I feel like I sometimes get more nit picky than I need to be, but sometimes things just start to niggle at me. When I'm partway through a book and I turn to the Goodreads reviews to read the ones that are 1 or 2 stars to see if anyone else is having the same issues, I know it's gotten bad.
I'll start with the good: The novel was engaging - the story kept me interested (mostly). The first 1/3 or so was particularly so. The descriptions of the Alaskan landscape and life in a tiny community were vivid. I wanted to find out what happened - I was invested in the main character.
- Character development: Honestly, the only character fully fleshed out was Leni. The "bad guys" were too bad, verging on unbelievable. The good guys were too good. Some, such as Large Marge, felt like caricatures.
- This novel is BLEAK. Achingly bleak. And the things that happen just seem to pile on, especially in the later part of the story. One thing after another in a fashion that isn't just unbelievable - it's downright too much.
- Dialogue - Here and there I found myself thinking that the dialogue was just clunky. Not realistic. Not natural. It wasn't extreme - just not quite right. I don't know why it bugged me so much.
- Little inconsistencies and inaccuracies - a vehicle crashes but is suddenly able to be driven again with no explanation. Black bears are described as so dangerous you don't even want to go out at night. Unless Alaskan black bears are vastly different than those in the lower 48, they are much less dangerous than many wild animals. Grizzly bears would give me pause. Black bears, not so much. Things like that. The little things I noticed made me wonder what else was downright wrong.
- Unnecessary repetition - The whole thing could have been much shorter and would have been better for it.
So, if those kinds of things bug you, you may not like this one. If you can stomach a book in which everything that could go wrong does, and you like the idea of an Alaskan adventure, you may want to check it out!
“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah is a heart-wrenching and breathtaking novel that took me on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. Once again, Kristin Hannah has written a remarkable story that is both hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable.
My personal introduction to Hannah was her brilliant novel “The Nightingale” (which is still my favourite book of hers) and both this novel as well as the later “The Four Winds” firmly cemented her position as one of my favourite authors.
The story follows the Allbright family as they move to the remote wilderness of Alaska in search of a better life. They are a family struggling with inner demons, and the isolation of Alaska proves to be both a refuge and a danger to them. I was fascinated by the way Hannah portrayed the beauty and the harshness of Alaska through her descriptions. She made me feel like I was right there, experiencing the cold, the snow, and the rugged landscape myself and I felt simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by it.
The characters in the book are well-developed and multidimensional. I found myself relating to them and their struggles, particularly the protagonist, Leni Allbright. Her journey from a scared and lonely teenager to a strong and independent woman was both inspiring and, at times, heartbreaking. I also appreciated the way the author portrayed the relationship between Leni and her mother, Cora, as it was complicated, nuanced, and realistic.
Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the way it tackled themes such as love, loss, resilience, and the importance of community. The author did an excellent job of exploring these themes through the characters' experiences and their interactions with one another.
The one missing star is due to some lengths that I feel are strangely unique to “The Great Alone”. While the detailed descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness were mostly an asset, at some points of the story I was eager to move on with the plot. Also, the romance between Leni and Matthew seemed a bit drawn out.
Overall, though, "The Great Alone" is a great novel that I would highly recommend to anyone. Fans of Kristin Hannah can rest assured that their expectations will certainly be met.
Four out of five stars.
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Lenora Allbright is 13 when her father convinces her mother, Cora, to forgo their inauspicious existence in Seattle and move to Kaneq, AK. It's 1974, and the former Vietnam POW sees a better future away from the noise and nightmares that plague him. Having been left a homestead by a buddy who died in the war, Ernt is secure in his beliefs, but never was a family less prepared for the reality of Alaska, the long, cold winters and isolation. Locals want to help out, especially classmate Matthew Walker, who likes everything about Leni. Yet the harsh conditions bring out the worst in Ernt, whose paranoia takes over their lives and exacerbates what Leni sees as the toxic relationship between her parents. The Allbrights are as green as greenhorns can be, and even first love must endure unimaginable hardship and tragedy as the wilderness tries to claim more victims.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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