Sunday, 6 September 2020

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah Book Review!


Hello Readers! I already told you the posts here are going to be few till I get out of my reading slump. Now, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I just might be out of it. After many weeks, I have finally completed reading Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. Once I got back the desire to read, I finished it in about 4 days or so. This book was good, but I won’t recommend it as a book to read to get out of the slump. But, I will recommend it if you are looking to get lost in a beautiful place. I have rated The Great Alone at 4/5!


The Great Alone is about the Allbright family living their complicated life in the wilderness of Alaska. Ernt Allbright served in Vietnam & returned with a darkness in him. Cora Allbright, his wife, is madly in love with him, no matter what. And, their daughter Leni Allbright is someone who has been the adult in the family from the age of thirteen. The book starts in 1974 when the Allbright family moves to Alaska. They move in a small community in Kaneq. They decide to live away from the rest of the world, in their own place, making their own food by growing vegetables, keeping chickens & goats, learning hunting & so on. They are warned by everyone to prepare for the winter because winters in Alaska are something else.

The book is divided into 3 parts as per the years – 1974, 1978 & 1986. In 1974, we see how the Allbrights move to Kaneq, settle in & manage to make a life. They have a lot of help from their neighbours. I won’t say anything about 1978 & 1986 because that will ruin the story.


Ernt Allbright is a POW veteran from the Vietnam War which made him into an abusive husband. His violence gets worse during the winter, which is the toughest period in Alaska. Because of the war, he has this urge of living in seclusion only with his family. Ironically, he has this thing about protecting his family when he is the one they need protection from. He loves his family in his own way. But, to the reader he soon becomes the villain of the story.

Cora Allbright is probably worse than Ernt, because no matter how many times he hits her, she refuses to leave him. They have a toxic relationship which is unbearably difficult to read. She goes along with everything that Ernt says, so much so that she moves to a faraway place cut out from basic resources. Not only did she allow herself getting bullied by her husband, she also gave Leni a traumatized childhood with a constant fear.

Leni Allbright is a brilliant young girl who was scarred from her childhood. She had to constantly stay on her toes in fear that something minor will set her father off. She had to stay away from a boy she loved because her father actively hated that boy’s father. She had to console her own mother. At such a young age, she had to be a grown-up because her parents refused to. But, despite everything that happened to her, she grew up to be an independent woman, a single mother & a positive person.


There are other characters who are all well wishers of Cora & Leni & are always ready to help them protect from Ernt. Large Marge, Tom Walker, Matthew Walker, the Harlans are all a united family of Kaneq. It was wonderful to read about this community where everyone is helpful & genuinely cared about others. Matthew is Leni’s love interest & honestly, I haven’t read about a more kind, brave yet delicate soul in any other book.


~~The Toxic Allbright Family~~

Usually when you have one flawed protagonist, it becomes interesting to read the story. But, when the whole family is deeply flawed, it becomes almost impossible to continue reading. Firstly, the toxic relationship between Ernt & Cora is so twisted & complicated. Cora’s self-delusion that he is sick when he has his violence episodes, is something beyond comprehension. The fact that Cora stays with Ernt year after year was grossly horrific. Secondly, Leni staying for Cora is another toxic thing. While it may seem daughterly, but in reality, it is not good for her to stay or even for Cora to allow that. At 13, she can give courage to her mother, but somehow she cannot convince her mother to leave her father. And because Leni can’t leave her mother, she stays in this family making it more toxic by the minute.

Probably because of this, whatever happens to Cora happens, which is basically karma in its simplest form. Giving Cora cancer because she was such a bad mother earlier did not go well with me. Also, because of this the ending felt dragged out.


~~Repetitive Writing~~

Winter arrives in Alaska. Husband goes berserk. Hits wife. Apologizes later. Wife is convinced he won’t hit her again. Repeat.

This kind of narrative has been repeated so many times in the book that it becomes disappointing & takes away the merit of the story as a whole. Leni wanting to run away with her mom leaving her father behind also becomes a bit repetitive.

~~Missed Potential~~

I absolutely LOVED the beginning when the Allbrights move to Alaska & how the beauty of the place just shines from the pages. In the end, the author has mentioned – “This state, this place, is like no other. It is beauty and horror; savior and destroyer. All of this set the perfect scene to what could have been an exceptional novel. But, using this amazing buildup only to talk about a man’s post-war violence or a teenage love story or a boy’s accident leading to brain damage, all collectively did not match the scene set in the beginning.


~~Important Topics~~

This book being set in 1970s – 1980s also sent important messages. We read in depth about domestic violence. How it can tear apart a family. How it can traumatize children. How it is to live in constant fear. It also talks about how the law is never kind to battered women. It is justifiable that the man abused his wife. But it is not justifiable when the woman raises a complaint against her abusive husband.  It was important to talk about it in a way that would reach the readers outside of the scope of the story & it sure accomplished to do that.

The book also talks about PTSD post-war & its effects on a family. Mental Health is so important & without getting the right resources, a person can change into a whole other human. The book brought out these matters in such a way that it would really reach the readers.

~~The Ending~~

Despite everything I have said above, the ending really got to me. Throughout the ups & downs in the book, there were times when I felt hope when Leni & Cora run away for the first time. I felt horror when they got into an accident. I felt hopelessly sad for Matthew when he lost his mother right in front of his eyes. I felt sadness when Leni & Matthew said their goodbyes & absolute joy when they reunite in 1978. I felt gratitude toward Large Marge & Tom Walker for sending Ernt away for 4 good years. I felt such bright anger towards Enrt, but also felt a sense of sadness when he realized that Cora had shot him. I felt such an emotion of stupidity for Leni when she confessed her crime. I felt a loss when Cora died. I felt miraculous about MJ. And finally, when I read about Matthew, I was speechless. The ending was when I let my emotions come to the surface for all the things that happened throughout the course of this book. There were loopholes or unsatisfactory bits in all these factors, but just towards the end I let those all go & only embraced the feelings.

Until next time,

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