Book Review: The Great Alone

February 5, 2018

The Great Alone
Kristin Hannah
448 pages
ARC from the publisher through NetGalley

From the Publisher: 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 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.


Kristin Hannah is one of my new favorites.  I listened to The Nightingale a few years ago and then took a break from her, but last fall I picked up a copy of Winter Garden by her from the library and that was all it took. Her books draw me in and keep me turning pages.  They are fascinating tales.  Her newest book, The Great Alone, is being released tomorrow!  When I saw that there were advanced copies available (in exchange for an honest review) I knew I would need to try to get one.  I could not put this book down, I read it all over this weekend.

As I was reading The Great Alone, I would pause and tell my husband parts of what I was reading, it was SO interesting, that even he was wondering if this was a true story or a work of fiction.  Hannah has a talent for really making her stories believable.  I was surprised to read at the end that her family has done homesteading in Alaska, and while this isn’t based on them, I am sure a lot of her ideas have come from family history.

This book is NOT for the faint of heart though.  After returning from war, Ernt is abusive (he probably was before), there are some raw, graphic scenes that, I’ll be honest, made me wince.  But this is also part of what I like about Hannah, she really can write something so gritty, but not make it crass or vulgar.  Hannah has an ability to write about these horrific situations, and not turn them into fluff. I also feel that in every book that I’ve read by her that she can take a historical topic and weave it into the story line so well I barely notice I am learning about it. I appreciate it.

It’s hard to talk about this book without thinking SO much about the ending. I try to stay spoiler free as much as I can, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I would love to read another book following some of these characters.  Perhaps in their future life, or in the years that the book jumped.  Much like Firefly Lane, this book could be weaved into more.

If you have read Kristin Hannah in the past and enjoy her books you will want to make sure you grab a copy of this one when it is released this week.  Full disclosure: If you are sensitive to language, there is a lot in this book, beware.  Ernst is the worst offender, but I believe it is so true to his character, it wouldn’t seem to fit him or him believable if he didn’t use it.  I tend to be forgiving of language when it seems appropriate or fitting into a book.  (I don’t love a lot of the f-word, and I don’t like it when I come across a lot of crass language in a middle grade or young adult book)  This is an adult fiction.  It fit.

But seriously, one of my favorites this year so far.  I loved this book, and I could not stop thinking about it. I still can’t.  I need someone else to read it so I can discuss the ending! Make sure you grab a copy of it when it is released, (pre-order on Amazon by clicking here for the win!)  This will be the book everyone is talking about!

5 out of 5 stars from me!

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1 Comment

  1. Reply


    Debbi, I posted my review of this one today; I didn’t LOVE love it, but I did love the vivid descriptions of life in Alaska and Hannah’s writing is always so beautiful. I know that I had some trouble with the subject matter (domestic violence, etc.), but I also feel like the ending was a little rushed. I have already recommended it to a couple of people, though, so it obviously didn’t bother me TOO much – ha! Great review!

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