So many good books out today!!! Seriously, your books for February could be covered just from today’s releases. I’m going to fill this week with reviews of GREAT books, starting with a book I never wanted to end. So get ready, get set, and here we go!!!
BOOK TITLE: The Great Alone
BOOK AUTHOR: Kristin Hannah
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
February 6th 2018
GENRES: Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
CHECK IT OUT AT: Goodreads
BUY IT: Buy on Amazon
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.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book or other items. If you buy using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. The links and your purchases in no way affect my reviews.
Alaska’s always intrigued me. I seriously thought I’d end up living there. It seemed like the perfect extension of my love of all things cold and mountainous (says the girl who grew up on Colorado before it was overrun). But instead I ended up in the flat, gray lands of the Midwest.
The trek of the Allbrights to a new, uncharted territory in the 70’s sounded familiar and understandable. Colorado (especially the mountains) had a lot of the same types of people migrating to it in my early years (the 70’s) in an attempt to get out of the rat race of the bigger cities. Some stayed reclusive and anti-social, others cashed in on the ski industry boom that followed (and now the whole state is exploding!).
There is so much going on in this book, and it all works together. Mental illness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Devotion, love, spousal abuse. Survival, love, friendship, and beauty. And a child who lives and grows through it all.
Thirteen-year-old Leni is apprehensive and nervous when her father moves them to Alaska. Especially when the people in their small, isolated town start telling them how unprepared they are for Alaska. But her resilience is amazing. Although it’s her father who’s looking to start over in Alaska, it becomes Leni’s true home, one that she can’t forget or put behind her, even when she’s forced to leave.
And, as part of Leni’s heart is caught in Alaska, part of it is with her parents, especially her mom. Her family is a microcosm of Alaska, beautiful and breathtaking in the light, scary and deadly when dark and stormy. The story of a young girl growing up and maturing in Alaska, learning to take care of herself and survive through nearly everything is overwhelming. Even when her life seems hopeless, Leni finds hope and promise. As the mother of two young girls, Leni filled me with promise.
I read the post-script by Hannah, and realized she had a real understanding of Alaska and the area of which she writes. And then I found this video, which explains her connection to The Great Alone and Alaska.
It’s funny, when I talk about Alaska, I think how much her reminds me of my family’s story, and how the place you land as a family shapes your life. My great-grandfather immigrated from Wales as a young man, and he fell in love with Colorado (for obvious reasons). But what if it would have been Canada, or Washington State, or Montana? North America is full of beautiful land. And how easily would it have been for any of my family to head to Alaska? I know it’s harsh and isolated, especially back in the early 70’s, but what a place to make your mark!
And she’s right, the story told here probably isn’t that dissimilar to things happening now The political climate in the United States (and the world) is so divided and scary, isolation sounds pretty good. I’m sure it would be a little different: Satellite television and phones make isolation a little more palatable, and others have made their way to The Great Alone, others who are willing to teach survival. And the bigger cities have gotten bigger, just like in the lower 48.
I know that there are battles happening all over the West over development versus land (be it for nature or farming or water rights), similar to one of the battles Ernt decides he needs to fight in Alaska. Also similar to the 1970’s version in The Great Alone, there are scary survivalists (I’m sure there always have been) who are sure the world is going to end at any moment (and who’s to say they’re wrong?! I’m just an optimist and hope that everyone else wants to live), people who want nothing to do with society. This is the scariest part to me about some survivalists: not the fact that they want to survive, but that the don’t want to integrate with others.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot going on in The Great Alone. So much subtext and underlying conflict going on. So. Much. Story!!!
Oh, and the movie rights have been bought! What a wonderful movie (if done right) this book will make!!!!
But, above the subtext, is a beautiful story I didn’t want to end. Leni is the daughter we all want to raise (even if we don’t want our children to have her heartaches) — brave, strong, steadfast, honorable, smart, loyal, and loving.
I loved this book. Who wants to head to Alaska with me?!!!