Read date: March 7, 2018
Format: Print Book
A PTSD-suffering Vietnam POW moves his family to remote Kaneq, Alaska to escape the– in his opinion– inevitable armageddon brewing in the Lower 49. Ernt is an extreme, troubled man, who is very largely enabled by his wife and her definition of a toxic love shared between the two that binds her to him despite myriad verbal and physical brutality, and caught in the whole mix is their teenage daughter Leni, who has been moved across country several times since her father’s return from the war.
The book’s plot is incredibly repetitive: someone does something that Ernt does not like, Ernt beats Cora within an inch of her life, and Leni urges her mother to make a change, but is assured that Ernt didn’t mean it and only hits her because he loves her so much. Rinse and repeat. The Allbright family’s endeavors had me asking one prominent question: if you know you suffer trauma and that cold and dark cause you to be violent and abusive, why move your family to ALASKA?
With a few exceptions, all of The Great Alone‘s characters create a very unrealistic portrayal of redemption, forgiveness, and familial relation, but wow, are they well developed. If there is one constant in all of Hannah’s books, it is her penchant for character development, even if they’re characters of whom you are really not too fond. I found myself detesting certain characters and being incredibly grateful when others were brought into the action because I felt I knew so well the type of people these folks were.
This was a difficult read; it felt very bland and it was difficult to sympathize with many of the situations the Allbright family found themselves in. The last few chapters provide a different flavor with which I was much more satisfied, and ultimately are what redeem the novel for me. If you’re looking for another The Nightingale, this is not it, but if another Firefly Lane will suffice, then The Great Alone may fit the bill.