The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a story in which you know someone is going to lose his or her life, it’s just a matter of figuring out who it will be and how it will happen. The story follows a family through most of daughter Leni’s childhood into adulthood. Leni and her parents (Ernt and Cora) have moved numerous times. Her dad is a Vietnam veteran and POW; the war has changed him. He is moody, physically abusive to Leni’s mom Cora (and eventually to Leni too). A friend of his killed during war left him a piece of land in the remotes of Alaska, and he decides that this is the change that their family needs.
They leave quickly and with few resources. The cabin is rundown and the land is overgrown. They work hard and learn from friendly locals about how to properly prepare for Alaska’s harsh winters. In time, they begin to feel more at home. Ernt begins to rage again, especially during the long winters. He turns against his wealthy, businessman neighbor Tom Walker which stirs the plot even more. Along with this is Leni’s growing friendship with Tom’s son, and her growing concern for the safety of her and her mom.
There are unexpected twists and turns through the story. Ultimately Leni and her mom are free from abuse, but not without many sacrifices. The story comes full circle when Leni is able to return to Alaska and create her own life and family there as an adult.
There are two standouts for me from this book. First is the love of Alaska evident in the detailed setting. The characters are in love with this place, both its beauty and its harshness. It takes a special person to make this setting a permanent home! Second is the relationship between Leni and her mom. Their love for each other is unbreakable.