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.
“Alaska isn’t about who you were when you headed this way. It’s about who you become.”
I can’t recover from this story! This is my first Kristin Hannah novel and it absolutely spoke to me, heart and soul. I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by the incomparable Julia Whelan. She brought to life the entire Allbright family and the supporting cast of very unique characters.
Ernt Allbright moves his family to Alaska after inheriting a remote cabin from a Vietnam war buddy. The family – Ernt, his long-suffering wife Cora and their teen daughter Lenora (Leni) – are ill-equipped to deal with the harsh realities of Alaska life. Ernt suffers from PTSD (before it was recognized) and his family fears what the long, dark, cold Alaskan winters will do to his already tortured psyche.
“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.”
I was fascinated by the description of Alaskan life and of the adventurous folks who have made Alaska their home. The Allbright’s neighbors are all fiercely independent people who welcome the new family with open arms. Leni, the new girl at school once again, finally makes friends for the first time in her life.
“We’ve lived weird lives,” she said.
“Maybe everyone does,” he said, sitting down beside her, and then lying down, pulling her into his arms.
This is an epic tale which gripped me from the very beginning. The character development is stunning and the descriptions of the vast and treacherous Alaskan wilderness are absolutely fascinating. This is a mesmerizing and emotional story which I won’t ever forget.
“Some years June is spring, July is summer, August is autumn, and everything else is winter.”
The author herself recorded the Acknowledgments section, and I was fascinated to learn that her family settled in Alaska. She clearly did meticulous research on the vast state and its colorful history and it shows in every word. At times horrifying in its savagery, ‘The Great Alone’ is ultimately a gorgeously written book filled with unforgettable characters and unimaginable tragedies.
This book is a fantastic travelogue for the state of Alaska and I am longing to return there. Haunting, emotional and fiercely beautiful, I fell in love with this book and highly recommend it to all.
“You are my heart, baby girl. You are everything I did right. And I want you to know I would do it all again, every wonderful terrible second of it. I would do years and years of it again for one minute with you.”