Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review: The Great Alone, by Kristen Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah book cover and review
There are so many things I loved about Hannah's latest novel, The Great Alone. She once again proves what a talented writer she is.

Leni's father has PTSD since he returned home after being a POW during the Vietnam War.  It is 1974. He can't hold a job; he has terrible nightmares and a terrible temper that he takes out on Leni's mother, Cora. When the opportunity arises for them to move to a very remote part of Alaska, they pack up their VW van and move, hoping for a better life.  They are totally unprepared for the harshness of this place.  And the long, brutal, dark winters only serve to make Leni's father worse.

With the help of the generous and knowledgeable townspeople, they learn to grow and hunt for food and how to preserve it for the long winter. They also learn to protect themselves from predators, like bears.

I loved the historical aspect.  Leni was born the same year that I was.  I could relate to all the references, political and cultural, to the 1970s. Although, I wasn't as tough as Leni!

I loved the Alaskan survival aspect. These people spent every waking moment during the long days of a very short summer working to stock up enough food for the winter.  They had to tend animals and learn how to keep them alive during the winter.  They had no running water or electricity.  No indoor plumbing. Then they spent the long nights of winter trying to stay warm and safe.  Hannah doesn't make this sound like a romantic Alaskan adventure.  She's brutally honest.

I loved the family dynamic, and how the PTSD aspect played out. Leni's father, Ernt, is scary.  And her mother loves him and can't live without him.  It makes for a lot of tension.  It is scary when they realize he's about to go off, and there is nothing they can do to protect themselves. Cora is stupid and blind.  But she has memories of her husband before the war and can't let him go. He gets crazier and crazier, and Cora is more and more blinded. As a reader, you know that eventually, something has got to give.

I loved the romance. Leni falls in love with Matthew Walker whose dad is the rich guy in town, and of course, Ernt hates him.  I won't say too much more, but it's heartbreaking.

I loved the ending. It's tragic.  It's happy. It made me tear up (and, you may recall, I'm not a cryer.)  So yeah, Hannah got me.

The pacing is perfect.  I just can't think of anything even remotely negative about The Great Alone. It's a great book for teens.  There is nothing at all objectionable, and the main character is a teen. So those who enjoy "romantic survival drama" stories will go for The Great Alone. This is sure to be a favorite of 2018.

Published by St. Martin's, February 6, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley and Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 5/5

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  1. This sounds so good on so many levels. Adding it to my TBR list now!

  2. This is such a great book on so many levels. It's sad, but like you, I loved the ending since it's realistic but also hopeful. This one didn't blow me away quite as much as THE NIGHTINGALE -- still, it's a sweeping, vivid novel that touched and broke my heart at the same time!


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