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.
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Even though the subject matter in this book is about a very dysfunctional family and a coming-of-age novel for a young girl who is exposed to way too much violence all her life, it is also a novel that depicts the beauty of Alaska - it's majesty and its ruggedness, and the resilience of the people who live in this beautiful but unforgiving country. The story begins in 1974 when Leni and her family decide to leave Seattle and head north to Alaska to try to find a simpler life. Leni and her mother Cora and her father Ernt lead a secret life. Ernt is a Vietnam vet who was held in a Vietnamese prison, and who is suffering from what we now know as PTSD. He is very unstable and has blinding rages and hurts Leni's Mom. Even at the young age of 14, Leni takes over the protective role of trying to keep her mother safe. The family is not prepared the majesty and beauty of Alaska, but they are also not prepared for the demands of the climate. But they find a group of supportive people that do all they can to help them learn what they need to know to survive an Alaskan winter. Ernt's fragile stability begins to fray, and he becomes increasingly more violent, and isolates his family. Leni's fight to protect her mom, and how she grows up to be a strong young woman is the theme of this book. But the rugged beauty of Alaska is the glue that holds it all together. I enjoyed the book, but probably shouldn't have read it after the book "Where the Crawdads Sing". It just was not quite as stellar as Crawdads.