The Great Alone

Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone is an epic story of a family that moves to remote Alaska in the mid 1970s. Ernt Allbright is a charismatic but violent Vietnam vet, suffering from PTSD and drinking far too much. He alternates between adoring and abusing his lovely wife Cora, she herself totally co-dependent and going along with anything he decides in order to keep an uneasy peace. Their young daughter Leni is  thus dragged about the West coast, from home to home, school to school, as they follow each hopeless scheme her father comes up with in order to eke out a living. When he discovers he has inherited a cabin and land in Alaska from a fellow POW who never made it home, it seems to be the solution to all of their problems.
Of course, if everything worked out that easily this book would have ended well before its 400+ pages.

Alaska (as much a character as any of the people in this story) reveals herself to be stunningly beautiful but unmerciful in her brutality. Human life can be wiped out in an instant there, as the Allbrights, who arrive woefully unprepared to live in this rugged environment, soon realize. A rag-tag community of fellow pioneers quickly come to their rescue, and new friendships as well as bitter rivalries are soon formed.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" as the saying goes, and how each of the Allbright family respond to the mental and physical challenges of this harsh world makes up most of this novel. Hannah is not a particularly elegant writer, but she is an amazing storyteller. I loved following Leni's adventures and learning about life in Alaska (Hannah's own family spent much time up there, and her love and familiarity of the state is evident). Highly recommended.
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