Fiction

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

great alone

“Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold.”

 “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service.


The Great Alone melted my heart. 🙂 What worked for me in particular was that it wasn’t just a love story. Love did play an extremely important part in it but it was not the only focus point. Something I appreciated a lot.

After I have had some time to digest The Great Alone, I feel a few clichés were used, its ending seemed a bit rushed and there was a lot of drama that at times felt a little bit too… unnecessary.

But…

I loved it. My emotions were all over the place – I laughed, cried… and I wholeheartedly recommend this book despite of those points above.


Before I dive into my review, here’s what Goodreads‘ says about it:

Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen year old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women.

About the highest stakes a family can face and the bonds that can tear a community apart, this is a novel as spectacular and powerful as Alaska itself. It is the finest example of Kristin Hannah’s ability to weave together the deeply personal with the universal.


The Great Alone is set in 70’s and is a coming-of-age story of 13-year-old Leni. I loved her straight away. She is an avid reader, a keen photographer but also feels lonely as her family moves from place to place. She is this curious and sensitive character that will melt your heart.

The story begins fully when her father Ernt decides to take her and her mum Cora to Alaska.

The Great Alone is a survival story. The survival is not just about lasting through harsh Alaskan winters though, it is also about facing increasingly unpredictable and volatile home dynamics.

“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.” 

There is another survival story there, which Ernt is going through. He is a war veteran and his story of survival is how he manages to cope with all that emotional pain he endured during the war.

I thought Hannah’s touching on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was important. This was 70’s. People didn’t talk about PTSD then. I do not condone any form of abusive behaviour and I think it is absolutely not OK to behave in such way – but having that knowledge of what Ernt went through made me understand, where his behaviour may have been coming from.

Side note: I am aware that not every brave soldier suffers from PTSD and that those who may suffer from it don’t necessarily exhibit abusive behaviour either. But I do believe that there are many heroic soldiers that need our help, and who may feel our system sometimes fails them. I hope things are better these days than they were in the 70’s, but I think we should still be raising an awareness around such a difficult topic. 

I thought at times, Ernt’s wife Cora senses that too. She knows that war changed her husband. She remembers what he was like ‘before’ and is hoping that her sticking by him and loving him could heal him somehow.

“Love and fear. The most destructive forces on earth. Fear had turned her inside out, love had made her stupid.” 


The Great Alone‘s story gently flows through the harsh and cold Alaskan wilderness. Hannah’s writing is extremely atmospheric; I felt I was in the stunning Alaska the entire time. Protagonists are well developed, the supporting characters are charming and I fell for all of them big time.

The questions I kept on asking myself whilst reading this book were following: “what does it mean to be alive?” and “how do we leave people we love?

Recommended: Yes! 

Possible triggers: Domestic abuse. Please do take care. 


Over to you now. As always, I love hearing from you.

  • Have you read The Great Alone?
  • If not, what do you think of its blurb? Is that something you may enjoy?