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on February 10, 2018
SO depressing. Per the usual, Kristin Hannah has created layered, fleshy characters and an engrossing story, but you really need to be in a good place emotionally to read this one. While many of her books are bittersweet and run the gamut of life’s emotions, this one is pretty bleak cover to cover. If all is stable and calm in your world and you read it from a place of peace and emotional homeostasis, or you need a catalyst for a bawl fest, go for it! It’s certainly an engrossing read and very well written. But if you have a lot on your plate, or more than a bit of emotional stress in your life at the moment, steer clear. Perhaps the fact that it has had such a strong effect on my state of mind is a testament to Ms. Hannah’s storytelling abilities, but I’d unread this, at least for the moment, if I could. I’m so exhausted and bummed out from reading this, I’m having a hard time getting out of my pjs this weekend! Additionally, there are a couple of areas where the plot line is a real stretch, but I think it’s so well-written overall that those things can be overlooked. Still a very good book, but good grief!
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon February 6, 2018
Ernt Allbright can’t run far enough to escape his demons. Going off-grid in Alaska, Ernt drags his wife, Cora, and his daughter, Leni, into a wilderness experience none of them are prepared for in an effort to start a new life. They must learn to garden, hunt, and gather as much food as possible to survive the long winter, guarding against bears, wolves, and other predators that would destroy their home. The townspeople donate livestock and helpfully train the small family in homesteading skills to improve their chances of holding on until spring. As time goes by, Leni finds new friendships even as her father alienates the townspeople. As the winter days shorten and daylight slips away, Ernt’s grip on his temper and sanity wanes and his family will pay the price.

There’s a lot of love in The Great Alone: a mother’s love, a friend’s love, a family’s love, romantic love, and dysfunctional love. Some of the romances are rock-solid and life-affirming. One romance is love at its best: patient, enduring, and indelible. However, the dysfunctional love that binds Ernt and Cora intersperses abusive episodes with declarations of love, regret, and broken promises.

The residents of Kaneq, Alaska, don’t understand why Leni’s mother doesn’t tell someone, doesn’t leave, doesn’t accept help, why she doesn’t stop loving her abusive husband. They don’t understand why Leni doesn’t leave her parents and escape to college. But I can relate. It takes years to grow past the fear of telling people that one of your parents is hurting the other or hurting you and your siblings. Hiding becomes ingrained. Your family closes its ranks and stands alone against the world. There’s a wall that must not be breached. Your family pretends that the bruises and broken bones are from accidents. It becomes normal to both love and fear your parent. I think Kristin Hannah beautifully captures the essence of that conflict and dichotomy.

I couldn’t sleep last night, and The Great Alone caught my eye as I was perusing Kindle books and nomming on a Skor bar hoping to feel sleep sneaking up on me. So quickly was I caught by this book that half my Skor bar still remains stranded on my bureau, abandoned when I nabbed my tablet and snuck to my recliner without waking the significant other. The story was so enthralling that I devoured it in one extended sitting broken only by puppy potty breaks.

The Great Alone is a chilling, emotionally wrenching roller coaster ride. Kristin Hannah has created characters that are believable and realistically populate her vision of a child caught between a parent she loves and cannot abandon and a parent who claims to love her. In the midst of becoming a warrior capable of surviving her family, Alaska, hard choices, and the tragedies that rock her world, Leni discovers the true families that love her.

It’s hard to write about this book and not include spoilers, so I’ll stop here and just say that there is a lot of sorrow (ask my Kleenex box about it), growth, and even joy in The Great Alone. For all its pain, this tale is unforgettably uplifting. Highly recommended.

Edited for TMI and again to add in love as an element, since my review overly emphasized the sadder elements of the storyline.
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on February 25, 2018
Rarely in my 50 years of reading have i come across a story that enfolds me into its pages as did "The Great Alone". The character of Leni takes us on a journey where we don't always want to follow. Her story is raw and honest, told through the innocence of a girl coming of age in the tumultuous 60's. Her description of Alaska is like watching a documentary about the state where we are swept from the water up to the glaciers and see a great panoramic of the wild and pristine state. Alaska herself comes alive as a character here, just as detailed and meaningful as any other. I grew to love the inhabitants of Kenaq as if I had lived there myself. The story flows in an often unpredictable way and leaves the reader wanting more. I am so glad I read this book and I can't wait to recommend it to others.
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on March 20, 2018
While I did appreciate the main character, this book was super difficult to trudge through from about 55% in until the last 2 chapters. I really like Kristin Hannah, but I find sometimes that I need her characters to get a win just to keep me going. I definitely felt that in "Great Alone". I ended up skimming the last half of the book simply because I wanted to see if there was anything good that happened to the characters at the end. I was very glad to see there was some redemptive quality to the book in the last couple of chapters. Would I read it again? Nope...too much hardship for too little goodness.
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on February 6, 2018
This is a spectacular epic. A love for Alaska shines through the twisting, turning story of a small family who love and hurt each other. We see the horror of war in it's after effects. The glimpse of life in the 1970's. Our heroine is a child who moves so often she never fits in. Her father is left property in Alaska by his army friend who didn't make it back.
When the story moves to Alaska everything comes vividly alive, the scenery, the characters and the story.
It was everything! Beauty, tragedy, love and redemption. Riveting, horrifying and absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend this soon to be classic.
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on April 9, 2018
Very disappointed. I usually love Kristin Hannah’s books but not this one. First of all it could have been 100 pages shorter. It really just went on and on mid way through the book about the abusive husband/father. I felt like the point was made chapters earlier but she just kept going over the same material for pages and pages. I almost couldn’t get through it. And so many horrible things happened I found myself feeling depressed for the entire 3 weeks it took me to get through it. As always Hannah develops her characters in a way that makes you feel as though they are close personal friends, which is usually a good thing, but in this case it just made the constant tragedys more depressing. In my opinion the story would have been just as effective but more enjoyable with 1 or 2 less tragedy’s! I wouldn’t recommend this book if you are looking for something uplifting that’s for sure! In fact I can say I won’t be recommending this one at all.
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on February 19, 2018
This book is amazing. This story is so compelling there are parts that are painful to read. But keep reading! This is the story of a dysfunctional family torn apart by domestic violence that is born in the aftermath of the father's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He came home to his wife and daughter a fractured man. This is a love story. The love of a wife, Cora, for her tortured husband. A love so strong that it blinds her ability to see what their troubled relationship is doing to their daughter. The love of a daughter, Leni, for her mother. A love so strong that it withstands the violence Leni sees at the hands of her father to her mother. This is a love story to Alaska--its natural beauty and the beauty of its independent people in the 70's. "Everyone here is either running from something or to something." I have been involved in the criminal justice business for 35 years. Never have I read such an honest portrayal of a fictional family in the throes of Domestic Violence. Kristen Hannah has done a masterful job at making such a tough topic readable and still teaching the reader of the tsunami effect that DV has on everyone it touches.
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on February 13, 2018
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is emotion packed and powerful. I had to make myself wait to write this review so I could chew on it, digest it overnight so I could try to do it justice. This book will stay with me for a long time.

Set in the 1970's in Alaska, it tells the story of a family, Lenora (Leni), her parents, Cora and Ernt, who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam whose experiences had "snapped something in him." Full of pain and suffering and flashbacks before we knew what PTSD could do to a person, and the effects that brought to the people they loved. Through it all, Cora reminds Leni, "Love doesn't fade or die, baby girl." I can almost hear her voice.

Alaska itself and its wildness and beauty is as much a character as the people who are brave enough to live there. I could never do it myself, Southern girl that I am, shivering at the thought of the cold and deep darkness of an Alaskan winter. But Hannah is tempting me to visit one day, perhaps in July!
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on February 18, 2018
It has been awhile where I read a book that I could not put down. But Kristin Hannah has written that book in The Great Alone. She has also opened my eyes to the beauty of Alaska. I have read other books about Alaska but never have I experienced a love for its beauty. It was always portrayed as dark, cold and dangerous but Hannah has also shown the survival part along with the beauty of its long nights and dangerous places.

And so we meet Leni and her mom and dad. Who set out to get away from the hustle and bustle of normal life. They are left a house in Alaska from her dad's friend who served in Vietnam with him. And thus begins this family's struggle to adapt to a new land, deal with her father's PSTD and his abuse of her mother. You will learn to love Leni and cry for her mom. You will learn to hate Ernt, the father who cant control himself. But most of all, you will learn to love the wilderness and strength in this story.

A hard life entails and we see how this family along with others survive until it all becomes too much for them. There was romance, abuse, struggles and lots of tears in this story. Many decisions which may or may not have been the right ones. All I know is by the end of this book, one has to ponder and think how strong the characters of this books were considering all that they had been through. And wonder what would you have done if in the same situation.
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on March 12, 2018
I usually love Kristen Hannah books but I just couldn't take this. It is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. I wanted to put it down before I got halfway through it, but I'm a "finisher" so I kept with it. It was torture, the writing gets worse, there are pages of descriptions that just seem to fill up space. By the end, I honestly didn't care what happened to the characters, I just wanted to be done with it. 2 stars for great writing and character development in the beginning of the book. It goes downhill from there.
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