The Great AloneThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 6, 2018
Pages: 440
View Title on Goodreads
Bantering Books Rating: three-half-stars

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.

Bantering Books Review

3.5 stars

The Great Alone did it. Kristin Hannah is now officially on my Authors I Like to Hate List .

It’s hard to say this because I adore many aspects of her historical fiction novels. I find them to be captivating and meticulously researched. Her female leads are endearing, resilient, and memorable. And her prose is lovely to read.

But oh, the tragedy! The heartbreak! The suffering!


The torment she inflicts upon her characters is just so excessive. It doesn’t feel real. It’s impossible to believe that all this awfulness could happen to one person.

And for me, what’s even worse is the corny, schmaltzy melodrama and emotional manipulation. It kills my reading experience. It pushes me over the edge to where I’m shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and disappointed that I am, once again, responding in this way to these wonderful stories.

Especially since her novels have such strong starts.

The first 70% of The Great Alone is outstanding. Immersed in Hannah’s stunning scenic imagery, I was taken with young Leni and felt great empathy for her coming-of-age plight in 1970s Alaska. For not only must she survive the brutal harshness of the untamed wilderness but also a toxic, volatile home life that endangers her well-being and future.

The problem, though, is that one minute I’m reading a compelling survival story of a brave teenaged girl, and the next, it’s as if an overwrought Lifetime movie is unfurling on the page. The last third of the novel is nothing but sad trauma after sad trauma, interspersed with frequent moments of laughable absurdity.

Sigh. It was enough to drive me up the wall.

Because I loved The Great Alone. Most of it, at least.

Until sadly, I no longer did.