What a beautiful title, The Great Alone. As an extravert, the alone thing sounds rough. But this is about wild Alaska in the 70’s. And in this book, Hannah paints a wild, incredible, strange image of the wilderness in nature and man.
First, some context. I’d heard of Hannah, seen her name and books on the internet. And about a year ago, I heard about The Great Alone and how it rocked everyone’s world. So I put it on my -to be read- pile which at this point is at least as tall as I am. And now I finally have read it, so let me give you a lil plot summery.
At the opening, it’s the mid 1970’s. Then unnamed serial killer Ted Bundy and the Chappaquiddick Incident are at the front of everyone’s minds. The Vietnam war has not gone as planned. Truly a wild time in history.
Leni is an only child to Ernt and Cora. Ernt is a recently returned POW, and Vietnam was not kind to him. He’s desperately in love with Cora and Cora is sure her love can heal him. It hasn’t. And when things get rough, Ernt decides Alaska will be their next fresh start.
But they are woefully unprepared for the harsh Alaskan winter. And the survival mentality combined with the endless solitude only drives Ernt closer to the edge. It doesn’t help that he’s befriended a cooky old doomsday prep-er. The dark, long days are hard and Leni’s only bright spot is her boyfriend, the son of Ernt’s sworn enemy.
Then there are some time leaps, some deaths, births, snowstorms, love, and incredible sadness. Some hope. It’s a rollercoaster.
It’s hard to really expand on the plot without giving things away. The story spans like two decades and a lot happens. Which was good, I think? Hannah definitely kept things interesting but none of it was in ways I expected.
For instance, there was all this drama about not being able to survive the winter but they totally did. It wasn’t always a comfortable situation but it didn’t seem like there was any real danger of them starving or freezing. And the doomsday paranoia was a huge theme for the first half(ish) of the book and that sorta fizzled out. Instead it was more of a Romeo and Juliet thing. Then the last part of the book read kinda like a soap opera? Again, is wasn’t bad. Just different.
Which may have contributed to my general dislike of all the main characters except the boyfriend. Sorry Hannah. But it didn’t detract from the writing. I thought the story was very well told.