Book Review: The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

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Title: The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction
Price: Rs. 227 on Audible
Listening Length: 15 hours and 2 minutes.
Narrator: Julia Whelan

Kristin Hannah is an author whose work I would trust blindly. She has written about some of the most strongest female protagonists and her stories tend to touch the heart and soul. Her stories have a human connect like no other. They celebrate the human spirit and talk about the depth of the human emotions, with all its faults and foibles. When I read 'Where The Crawdads Sing' and loved it, most of its reviews said that for those who loved 'The Great Alone', this book is a must read. I had put it on my TBR back then and I picked it up on Audible this month. I must say that I am loving the Audible experience and it has definitely improved my concentration and focus. I'll write a detailed post about my Audible experience soon.

The Great Alone is the story of the Allbright family. Ernt Allbright has just returned from the Vietnam war as a POW and is a changed man thanks to the PTSD. His wife Cora loves him no matter what and puts up with his volatile nature and abuse. They love each other, but their love is toxic. Ernt doubts the loyalty of his wife every time she speaks to another man, while Cora does so on purpose to test Ernt's love for her, even if it means getting beaten up by him at the end of the day. Lenora Allbright, or Leni grows up witnessing this poisonous relationship and at the tender age of thirteen learns that this is not what she wants for herself. She wants to make a better life for herself and her mother, but her mother refuses to leave her father.

When Ernt's friend passes away and leaves behind a cabin in Alaska to Ernt, the unhappy desperate family looks at it as a new-beginning. While Leni is not happy to move, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. Alaska, also known as the great alone, America's last true frontier, seems like an answer to their prayers when they are accepted by a community of strong men and even stronger women. The fiercely independent community prepares them for the wild and helps them stock up for the long, almost never-ending winters. Along with the winters come Enrt's gloom and paranoia. When an affluent neighbor, Tom Walker and his son Matthew enter their lives, everything goes haywire. The wildness of the nature outside the cabin seems trivial in comparison to the wildness of the human nature within it.

Ernt begins to feel that Cora is having an affair with Tom Walker and beats her to death almost everyday. Meanwhile in school, Leni and Matthew grow close, slowly talking about their pasts while planning a future together. When Large Marge, another neighbor and Tom Walker offer to help Cora if she wants to get out of her marriage, Cora refuses. When Ernt learns of Leni's relationship with Matthew, his abuse gets directed towards her. Cora is used to his beatings, will she stand and watch Leni go through it too?

The Great Alone is a bold, beautiful story about the fight for survival. It is a celebration of the human spirit and resilience. In Leni we have another hero who is willing to go against all odds to make a decent life for herself. She's timid at first, then gets accustomed to the wild and her perception of life evolves the same way. We all know the impact of childhood trauma and Leni goes out of her way to combat it and get her mother and herself outside the clutches of her abusive father and then the big bad world out there. Large Marge and Tom Walker are adorable supporting characters who lend a sense of warmth to the story as does Matthew with his unbridled love for Leni. This can be a considered a love story too, but first it is a story of human frailty, determination and the ultimate quest to survive with a woman in the center. You cannot go wrong with a story like this.

The narration by Julia Whelan is crisp and captures the emotions really well. Audio books need the right narrator to bring the story alive and this one does it with utmost sincerity and love.

I'm taking off a star only because I liked her other books better. So far, it is Winter Garden > The Nightingale > The Great Alone for me.


Verdict: Wild and bold with startling descriptions of Alaska and the human nature. This one will hit you hard.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

12 comments:

  1. This book has been on my radar for a while. Will surely pick it up.

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  2. Seems like an interesting read. A crisp review as always.

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  3. Interesting plot, Soumya.
    Yet to read any of Hannah's books.
    Stay safe. Take care.

    Aren't you participating in this year's AToZ Challenge?
    You always motivated me to join it.

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    1. Long time, Anita :)

      Was occupied with something else this year, so opted out this time.

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  4. I couldnt dig audible at all- Second book I tried on it was Harry Potter by Stephen Fry and I just couldnt enjoy it. Glad to hear you are able to concentrate on it. My concentration wanders like mad when I try to listen. Sigh!!!

    This book sounds amazing and I am bookmarking purely on the basis of your review- very crisp and well analysed review Soumya!

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    1. Oh no! That's bad. It took me a while to get used to it, but when I did it was awesome. I'm on my 4th Audible book now and I'm loving it!

      Do read this one Shalz.

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  5. Sounds interesting.
    I tried reading The Nightingale but gave up. I am a very impatient reader. But this year, I am trying to be patient.

    Lovely, detailed review. And you're listening to the stories. I don't feel like using audible. But then I never thought I'd feel comfortable reading on Kindle. Maybe someday..

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    1. Oh you have to read The Nightingale, it is a beautiful story. Slow paced, but that pace is needed to do justice to the emotions behind the story. Do persist :)

      Audible is a mixed reaction product. Give it a try though.

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  6. I am going to pick this up. I am reading North of Dawn these days and liking it too.

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