THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah
Not every book can be epic, but some can, and Kristin Hannah’s THE GREAT ALONE definitely is. This is a book that spans decades and gathers readers up in a saga about Alaska, the last frontier. It is a book with a message concerning spousal and child abuse, but it also has a moral center wrapped around the bond between a mother and her daughter.
There is also a look at the suffering post traumatic syndrome can cause in the person who has this condition and the people who are around him or her. Hannah tackles this and a lot of other drama in her book but she plays it like a tune on a fine violin. Her technique in writing the book is grand and the music of her story is entertaining and enchanting.
The book takes wing in 1974 when thirteen year old Leni and her parents Ernt and Cora are living in Seattle. Leni’s home life is a jumble of confusion because her father can’t keep a job. He was a soldier in Vietnam and was captured by the enemy. Upon his release he came home to his wife and daughter but he came with mental and emotional scars. He is subject to various mood swings which bounces between high highs and low lows.
During one of his highs he bundles up his family and moves them to a small town in Alaska. He has inherited some land and thinks this is the perfect way for the family to “start over.” But Alaska is not for the weak or the sick. It is a place that rewards strength and independence but can destroy those who are unable to fight for their right to be there. Particularly harrowing are the winters. Those dark days can wear down a man healthy in body and spirit but for a man like Ernt they can bring out the worst.
Hannah’s writing places you inside this cocoon of three and makes you feel and live the fear that grows as each day passes. The reader is not just a casual observer of these fraught situations, he/she is a participant in all the fear Ernt’s emotional status creates. The core of this book is as harrowing as any story you have read in the past, and no one emerges unscathed – including the reader.
THE GREAT ALONE is not a casual read. It is a book you dedicate yourself to, reading and rereading passages that tear at your heart. Leni is the victim and the possible heroine of the story. Her problem is how much can she do. Cora is the adult she depends upon and Cora is blindly devoted to Ernt. Seeing how it all plays out is engrossing reading at its most intense.
Kristin Hannah gets better with each and every story she writes. She creates settings your mind can see and explore. Better yet she creates characters your heart can absorb. THE GREAT ALONE gathers together all of the bests of Hannah’s writing and issues it to the readers as a magnificent story of hope and redemption.
THE GREAT ALONE is published by St Martin’s Press. It contains 448 pages and sells for $28.99.
Jackie K Cooper