The Great Alone. Kristin Hannah. St. Martin’s Press. February 2018. 448 pp. ISBN #: 9780312577230.
Leni Allbright’s father, Ernt, is a Vietnam War veteran who returns from the war with PTSD that gradually threatens Leni and her mother. He sees everyone as a threat, can’t keep a job, drinks too much and repeats the cycle of paranoia and violence toward his wife, Cora.
A dream arises for Ernt, to get away from the influence of government and rich people that smothers the lives of those who yearn to live a free, unencumbered life. Ernt sees Alaska as the land that can enable the family to start a new life. From this point onward, we see an amazing juxtaposition of what life could be and what life is. The reader also yearns for the dream to become reality. It will do so but not until events escalate to a crescendo of beauty and horror.
For Lena falls in love with Alaska, its gorgeous scenery depicted in descriptions that make the reader want to live there and its feisty, strong residents who support each other in good and hard times. Ernt seems happy for a brief period of time but then succumbs to his fears.
No spoilers here but suffice to say that after more brutality than one person can bear, Cora commits a startling act that will change their future forever. Leni will complete, yet change, the cycle of love, forgiveness and honesty, returning to call Alaska “home.”
Kristin Hannah is a very talented writer who deserves more public acknowledgment and praise. The pace of this complicated plot is exquisitely crafted, mixing love for one’s environment with the need to deal with veteran post-war issues that shake and threaten the solidarity of a united community. Stunning historical fiction that is highly recommended.
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