Title: The Great Alone
Author(s): Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 6th 2018
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
After her wildly successful World War II historical fiction, The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah returns with a story about love and resilience set in the 70s right in the heart of Alaska. Although she has written over 20 other books in her life, The Nightingale ultimately became my first experience of her writing style and proved to be a very atmospheric and captivating story. It’s without hesitation that I had to give her next endeavor a shot, and fortunately for me, The Great Alone was just as compelling as her international blockbuster.
This is the story of the Allbrights. Mostly focused on the youngest girl of this three member family, Lenora Allbright prays for her family to find stability as she continuously hops from one school to another because of her family’s inability to maintain employment. Her father, Ernt Allbright, was a prisoner of war who recently came back from Vietnam and whose mental state is fragile and extremely volatile. Her mother, Cora Allbright, is a bright woman who is blinded by love and would do absolutely anything for her husband and little girl. Upon hearing about a brand new opportunity to start fresh, Leni’s father forces his dreams upon his family and installs hope within everyone by presenting Alaska as their new home, also known as America’s last frontier or The Great Alone. But Alaska isn’t just a beautiful secluded region. It has its own dangers, and some of them aren’t from Mother Nature herself, but within the Allbrights themselves.
This is a coming-of-age story for Lenora Allbright. Young and innocent, heavily in love with classic literature, she has never known what her dad was like before he was a POW and has lived most of her life in loneliness, only belonging to her family. Settling into Alaska is seen as an opportunity for a clean slate where the love they have for each other serve as the foundation to their new life, but she has yet to understand that with the perfect ingredients, chaos can ensue. The cold winter is what the strong and tightly-knit community over in Alaska warns them about as it brings out the worse out of everyone, and for someone like Ernt, it is what he needs to unveil his true self and bring it to life in a bright firework.
This is a story with two completely different love story at the core of it. One that is as toxic as it can get and the other is filled with light, hope and passion. The former isn’t easy to read about and will instigate some very heavy and dark emotions within readers. Kristin Hannah does an unbelievable job at developing and showing readers all the different angles of these two relationships and doesn’t shy away from investigating their darkest facets. Love isn’t only portrayed as the lust that binds two people together, but as the challenge that keeps two individuals together, and sometimes even apart, for their relationship to last forever. The yearning and the reasoning that comes with every action that someone does for another is presented and contextualized in a way that only Kristin Hannah could do to show us how complex it is to even comprehend the concept of love.
To top it off, Kristin Hannah also integrates a whole theme of change and resilience within this story, while successfully capturing the atmosphere of the 1970s in a place as beautiful and dangerous as Alaska. What we thus get is an adventure where character’s are challenged into toughening their will and sharpening their perseverance in the face of adversity. With characters who are brilliantly developed and a setting that forces everyone to be content with basic needs, we are also shown the clash between the mentality of different generations as they struggle to reconcile on the priorities of a community that only strives if everyone has each other’s backs. In the end, The Great Alone turned out to be another fantastic historical fiction written by Kristin Hannah where fans of a brilliant exploration of resilience and love will find joy, and maybe even a little bit of sadness.
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆
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Till next time,