The Great Alone was about a family of homesteaders in Alaska in the 70s. Leni, the young protagonist of the story, is living with her parents in the wilds of Alaska despite having no wilderness survival skills. Her father was a POW in Vietnam and brought home all of the mental scars one would expect, but our society didn’t have the words or the treatment to help him at the time. They spent several years bouncing from one missed opportunity to another until this property in Alaska fell into their laps – and off they went.
Much like the last Hannah book that I read (The Nightingale), this was about the effect of war on families and how women can use their shared strength to get through seemingly impossible situations. There’s a small group of women in their town who came out to help the Allbright family prepare for their first Alaskan winter. Although Leni’s father bristled at anyone assuming he didn’t have what it took, he’s able to see that their survival depends on the community around him. He moved to Alaska so that he could be self-sufficient, but his family quickly learns that friendships are what get Alaskans through their most difficult seasons.
As winter begins to close in on the family, they quickly realize that all of their problems haven’t been solved by their move. Leni’s father begins to feel those old restless feelings and his jealousy is constantly aroused anytime anyone even speaks to his beautiful wife. His anger often leads to violent outbursts, which Leni’s mother does her best to protect Leni from. But in a tiny cabin and with Leni growing into a young adult, there can no longer be any secrets in this family.
Leni’s reprieve from her family comes from school, where she meets and falls in love with a boy, even though her father doesn’t approve. This is typical with most families – but potentially deadly for the Allbrights. This storyline seems to be over the top and completely unrealistic, but Hannah had me hook, line, and sinker anyway. I was heaving great big sobs throughout the last 1/3 of this novel and absolutely could not put it down.
Kudos to Kristin Hannah for ripping my heart out. Again.