The Great Alone

The Great Alone

Book - 2018
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Lenora Allbright is 13 when her father convinces her mother, Cora, to forgo their inauspicious existence in Seattle and move to Kaneq, AK. It's 1974, and the former Vietnam POW sees a better future away from the noise and nightmares that plague him. Having been left a homestead by a buddy who died in the war, Ernt is secure in his beliefs, but never was a family less prepared for the reality of Alaska, the long, cold winters and isolation. Locals want to help out, especially classmate Matthew Walker, who likes everything about Leni. Yet the harsh conditions bring out the worst in Ernt, whose paranoia takes over their lives and exacerbates what Leni sees as the toxic relationship between her parents. The Allbrights are as green as greenhorns can be, and even first love must endure unimaginable hardship and tragedy as the wilderness tries to claim more victims
Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2018
Edition: First U.S. edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780312577230
Characteristics: 440 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Aug 15, 2018

Riveting saga of a couple homesteading in 1970's Alaska with their young daughter. Ernt is the PTSD suffering Viet Nam vet who is physically abusive, Cora is the loving wife and mother. She can’t leave Ernt because she loves him and is basically trapped in Alaska. Leni is the bookish daughter who loves her mother and Alaska. Cora and Leni eventually thrive in Alaska. They learn subsistence living, make friends, Leni falls in love etc. but Ernt is having none of it. Most of the book is a runaway train whose end can only mean death. A hard, grim read at times but this author does not disappoint with her hopeful ending. I listened, and the reader was very good. The different voices were subtle but distinguishable.

Aug 13, 2018

I seem to be focusing on survivalist-type literature these days — My Absolute Darling, Idaho, Educated, and now this, The Great Alone. A family of three gets the opportunity to move to an isolated community in Alaska. The father hopes to escape the demons he brought home with him from a POW camp in Vietnam. The mother loves the man he used to be and is steadfast in her commitment to him, even now in his angry and paranoid state. Leni is 13 years old and has no say, but has to figure out how to navigate the violence in her own house and the loneliness everywhere else. The father finds some like-minded folks in the community and Leni finds a friend — a boy! The father spirals toward a darker and darker place and Leni begins to understand that she has got to get away. The mother is locked in her self-destructive idea of what love is.

The author had a tough act to follow, after The Nightengale, and The Great Alone was nowhere near as riveting and engaging. It did show, I think, an authentic picture of how it could come to pass that a woman would stay with an abusive partner, but I don’t think that was the book’s primary theme. I’m not quite sure what exactly was.

Aug 06, 2018

This is a book I was scared to keep on reading but couldn't put down till I had read the last page. Leni Allbright is part of a family of three where her mother Cora and father Ernt have a toxic relationship.Ernt returns from the Vietnam war a broken man, a savage man,a violent man whom Cora and Leni love and fear. They move several times before Ernt decides to pack up and leave for Alaska.At first Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers but as winter approaches the darkness and cold brings out the worst in Ernt. Leni wanted to care that she frightened her mother but she couldn't hold on to that caring. She felt that it was Cora's choice to dig through the dirt of dad's porous toxic love for treasure but she, Leni, could not.Soon Leni learns that she loves and hates her dad at the same time and how difficult it is. The author Kristin Hannah writes a poignant tale with great skill. The story takes unexpected twists and turns and as the drama unfolded I had to keep reading to see if there was a happy ending.

Aug 06, 2018

I greatly enjoyed it, in particular for how it built suspense. I consumed it mostly via audio CD, and thought the narrator was quite good. In the last third of the story, there were times when I couldn't get out of the car until I had heard the end of a suspenseful chapter. A couple of things seemed a bit unbelievable in the last third of the book -- but even so, it kept me listening in the driveway once I arrived home!

Aug 05, 2018

Heartwrenching and heartwarming story about domestic violence, PTSD from VietNam war, survival in 1970s Homer Alaska, Leni/Ernt/Cora and all the people who cared for them. Beautifully written, awesome descriptions and thoughtful reflections on grief, survival, life in Alaska, relationships.

Aug 05, 2018

I was in high school when the Viet Nam war ended and the soldiers came home. The big brothers who had teased us unmercifully, but would also pile us all up in their cars and take us skating or out for ice cream cones were not the men who came home. And those upon whom the war had laid a heavy hand came home broken, just like Ernt Allbright. While none of it was their fault, they had become toxic to their loved ones and families, haunted by the tape loops that never stopped running through their heads.

It is easy to hate Ernt for the things he does, but it is possible to pity him for inner torment that makes him do them. His wife Cora is caught in her own time loop, remembering the man she loved pre-war and hoping that somehow, if she just loves him hard enough, that man will come back.

But it is their daughter, Leni, for whom you have the greatest sympathy. Made to grow up hard and quickly, a hostage to fortune of these two dysfunctional parents, she finds in Alaska the tough environment she was made for. Still, she wants to go, to get her mother away from her abusive husband and to live a life that isn't boundaried by fear and shame.

The book is well written but tough to read. Ernt's increasing instability and violence are tough to witness, as is Leni's growing sense of hopelessness, as she realizes she may never convince her mother to leave her father, and that if she can't convince her, then she, Leni, will have to stay to protect her.

The ending is perhaps too saccharine to go properly with story that precedes it, but something light was needed to balance all of the heavy drama.

The quirky Kaneq neighbors who welcome the Allbright family unquestioningly and help them in every way they can are beautifully drawn and come alive in the book. They are very true to the Alaskans I met during a visit. Questions are rarely asked, judgements are rarely made, and friendship and camaraderie and community spirit are strong.

multcolib_alisonk Jul 24, 2018

I'm drawn to stories of homesteading and self-reliance in the bush, and in that respect, this book ticked all the boxes. Alaska is beautifully described, as are the many hardships of living an isolated life. Leni's character is well-developed, and I went along with her on the journey of being at first daunted by, and then in love with the wilderness she finds herself in as a teen.

But the wilderness represented by her father is another matter, and although there's sympathy for a man badly damaged by the Vietnam war, his descent into abuse and mania is so long and drawn out, that I was very glad to get to the end of the book.

ArapahoeBethW Jul 17, 2018

This book leaves me conflicted. I was completely engrossed throughout the first 350 pages. But there was a point for me where the bad decisions, tragedies, etc... went overboard and I lost my suspension of disbelief. Did I fall in love with the characters, the setting, and wonderful little community? Yes. Did I contemplate moving to Alaska and becoming a homesteader? Yes. Did Ernt make my stomach turn, leaving me with bad dreams and unsettling nights of sleep? Yes. Was I surprised by all the twists and turns? All yes. I totally get why everyone is raving about this, The Great Alone is hard to put down. But somewhere in there I cannot help that I stopped believing in the story. Still, tho, it was worth the read.

Jul 16, 2018

What a fantastic read, I was engrossed for hours and hours enjoying the character development and the way the author wrote about the beauty and horror of the Alaskan way of life. The meek mother and the lunatic, possessive father was reminiscent of "The Mosquito Coast" by Paul Theroux, another great book. I enjoyed this one, and would recommend.

Jul 15, 2018

Listened to audio book. Stayed up until 3 a.m last night to finish, crying as I did!
Quietly builds to an I can't wait to find out what happens next story Of love and survival. Beautifully written, engaging character's, such clear imagery that I felt like I was there in Alaska. Inspired day dreaming about living a little more wild. Highly recommend.

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ArapahoeMaryA Mar 13, 2018

You know what they say about finding a man in Alaska—the odds are good, but the goods are odd.


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