The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah follows the Allbright family: Ernt, Cora and their thirteen year old daughter Leni in 1970's America. Ernt has just returned from Vietnam after being captured and tortured as a POW for six years. He comes back a changed man, becoming increasingly irritable and volatile. Cora, determined to hold onto the husband she knew before the war, is willing to follow him to the ends of the Earth. When he loses his latest job, Ernt decides to relocate the family to a remote part of Alaska after learning he inherited a house from a friend of his who died in Vietnam.
When they arrive in Alaska, it seems like this may be the answer they have been searching for. They soon realize they have arrived to the Great Alone grossly underprepared but they find a community who becomes family and teaches them all they need to know to survive. Leni is hopeful this place is the fresh start they need and for awhile things appear to be looking up for the Allbrights.
As winter begins to approach, leaving them with a mere six hours of sunlight per day, Ernt becomes more and more erratic and paranoid. His drinking increases, anger intensifies and jealousy flares with Cora on the receiving end. Leni & Cora find that the greatest danger this winter is much more harrowing than anything the elements can throw at them.
I loved this book so much and it is in the top three books I have read this year for sure. The characters are so well-developed and your heart will go through every emotion when reading this book. I loved the community of people they found in Alaska who became family, willing to give anyone the shirts off their backs when they were already battling scarcity. I felt so frustrated with Cora and her inability to escape Ernt's abuse but also understanding that she was caught in a cycle of abuse. My heart broke for Leni who is so desperate for a normal life with loving relationships and just longed to feel safe. I hated Ernt so much but tried to imagine what being tortured for six years might do to someone, though I find it hard to believe he didn't have any threads of anger and jealousy prior. This book will put you through the ringer for sure but I left this book being so glad I went on this journey. This was my first read from Kristin Hannah but it will certainly not be my last. If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens or any similar books, you will devour this compelling read.
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