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  • Crystal, Branch Librarian & Brooke

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Two of our librarians read Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone, so enjoy this dual-take on the popular historical fiction novel!


The Great Alone was the first book I’d ever read by Kristin Hannah, and it will definitely not be the last book I read by her. This absolutely amazing book blew me away - I would give it 6 stars if I could! I had an extremely difficult time putting it down, and I became so emotionally attached to the story and the characters that I actually cried at the end.

Set in 1974, Ernt Allbright, returns home to Seattle after being a POW in Vietnam. Ernt is definitely a changed man showing all the signs of PTSD. At the time, PTSD was an undiagnosed condition, but it ravaged his life and his wife and daughter’s lives. Ernt’s struggles as a result of Vietnam is taking a terrible toll on him and his family. So when he inherits a cabin in Alaska from a dead soldier, he believes this will be the fresh restart they all need.

This was a story of survival, not only in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, but within the characters’ relationships. It was a book about confronting your fears and realizing how strong you are. The Great Alone was about courage, the power of love and friendship, and an unshakable bond between parent and child.

As a librarian, I often get asked to recommend books to people. However, this book was recommended to me by one of my patrons. I was somewhat apprehensive at first about reading it, but before I could finish the first chapter I was hooked and so glad I had taken my patron’s advice. The Great Alone is a well-written, must-read novel!

- Crystal, Branch Librarian



Thirteen-year-old Leni Albright’s dad, Ernt, has never been the same since Vietnam, where he was captured as a POW. Now his temper is short, the fights between him and her mom, Cora, are frequent and explosive, and he can’t seem to hold down a job long enough to give them any semblance of a stable life. When Ernt receives a letter informing him that one of his friends that he served with in ‘Nam has gifted him a piece of land in Alaska, he makes the rash decision to move his family north into the wilderness.

The year is 1974. Alaska has only been a state for 15 years. Those who choose to live there must be prepared for long winters, a lack of modern conveniences, and isolation. After all, they don’t call Alaska “The Great Alone” for nothing.

When Leni and her parents first arrive in Alaska, they marvel at the beauty and wonder of the place. Mesmerized by all that they see, they find themselves lulled by the peace and serenity of the untouched landscape. The only hint of human influence is that of the small, resilient community of homesteaders who have chosen to live off the grid in exchange for the freedom and privacy that Alaska provides. The community quickly learns just how unprepared the Albrights are for the upcoming winter, and band together to help the family survive the Alaskan wilderness, but Ernt does not welcome them with open arms. He is a proud man and doesn’t want their help. As Leni watches her father become more radical and volatile with each passing day, ranting on and on about the government and the war, while striking her mother over the littlest things, she begins to worry that maybe it won’t be Alaska that kills them, but him. Will they survive their first winter? And if they do, what awaits them on the other side?

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a lyrical portrayal of survival in a beautiful, wild Alaska, and a gripping story of a family being terrorized from within. Hannah explores what pioneer life would have been like in Alaska’s early days, providing a fascinating peek into a world that many of us never have, nor ever will, experience. Even more terrifying than an Alaskan winter is the horror that Ernt Albright inflicts on his family with his temper and fists. Readers need be aware that this story of survival does not pertain only to Alaska, but also to a mother and daughter at the hands of a vicious and manipulative husband.

While often beautifully haunting and raw, The Great Alone is not without its faults. Hannah often relies on cliches and predictability to carry the story, making The Great Alone a bore at times. With a huge chunk of the novel focusing on the Albrights’ early survival in Alaska without much consequence, you often feel like you are plodding through the story. When things finally start to happen, they happen too quickly without much plot development or explanation. Furthermore, twists that you see coming a mile away are not twists, and feel cheap when they are all crammed within pages of each other.

- Brooke, Public Relations Librarian



GENRE: Adult Books for Young Adults; Domestic Fiction THEME: Novels of Place

WRITING STYLE: Descriptive; Engaging CHARACTER: Well-Developed TONE: Strong Sense of Place LOCATION: Alaska TIME PERIOD: 1970s SUBJECT: Communities; Families; Friendship; Moving Households; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Thirteen-Year-Old Girls; Vietnam Veterans; Violence in Men; Wilderness Survival


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