Monday, January 22, 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

What They Say......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 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.

What I Say....This was one of my favorite Kristin Hannah books.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and I'm no nature lover so the thought of moving not just to Alaska, but to off the grid Alaska, had me grinding my teeth.  What kind of parents do that to their child?  The answer is crazy ones.

Ernt has come back from the Vietnam war changed.  His wife is still madly in love with him and goes along with the frequent moves that come with the frequent job losses, and the paranoia that leads to quick anger and lack of sleep for the whole family.

When Ernt receives a letter from the family of a dead Army buddy, he doesn't hesitate to uproot his entire family to move into a house sight unseen.  No running water, no bathroom, no electricity, no nothing.

But Leni and her mother Cora make the best of a bad situation.  This was crazy to me, it's like it never occurred to the that there was any other option.  Although this was during a time when a woman couldn't have a credit card unless her father or husband co-signed for her.   Complete madness.

The years pass, and Leni develops an attraction to Matthew Walker, the richest boy in town, an attraction that is reciprocated.  But her father's paranoia has continued to grow, and his envy towards the Walker family is all consuming.  The means that Leni has to sneak around, not an easy task in a tiny town.

The best part of Kristin Hannah books is that they usually follow a large span of their character's lives, which I find immensely satisfying.  Every life has good times, bad times, births, deaths, and messy, messy relationships.  This book covers all of these chapters of life, set in the wilds of Alaska, where the landscape presents as much danger as the people who proclaim to love you.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.2

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