Dear Fellow Reader,
If you follow this blog, you know that when I go on vacation, I read a lot. I am back from a week away and I am happy to tell you that I finished several books (okay, 6). There were several that I felt were very good. I had been on a streak of books that were okay but nothing great. I am so glad that streak is broken. So, let’s get started.
I liked The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah. I will tell you a secret. I know that Ms. Hannah’s The Nightingale was a huge favorite. I never finished it. I did not engage for some reason. I know everyone loved it but that happens. BUT I did enjoy The Great Alone. I will also say that this book has not been the hit The Nightingale was, but I liked it much better.
The Great Alone tells the story of the Allbright family. The story is told from the perspective of the daughter Leni, who is 13 when the story begins. Leni has been in and out of several schools and never seems to fit in. She longs to have a friend. Leni’s father was a POW in Vietnam and suffers from alcoholism, anger issues, and PTSD. He can’t hold a job, so they move frequently. At the beginning of the book, Ernt, Leni’s father, receives a letter telling him that he inherited a house and some land in Homer, Alaska. Ernt feels that moving to Alaska will be his salvation. That it will be better for him where there are fewer people. Leni doesn’t want to move. She urges her parents to let her finish the school year, but her father is all fired up so off they go.
The first person they meet in Homer is Large Marge. Large Marge has been in Alaska for a long time. She warns them that they need to prepare for winter. She and some other women in the community come to the house to help put together chicken coops, goat pens, and garden beds. Their help was a big step in getting the Allbrights to start preparing for the winter ahead.
When Leni gets to school in Homer, she meets Matthew Walker, the only other child her age. The immediately become friends. Leni is happy because she now has a friend, but her father is drinking more and there is less daylight every day.
Will Ernt do better with the wide-open spaces of Alaska or will the long winter nights cause him to have more problems? Will the family discover the value of friendship and community in this cold, dark land?
I felt that the story pulled me in quickly. It is not an upbeat story, but Leni is so likable that you want it all to work out for her. I thought this was one of the best books I have read lately. With that said, it seems that the message from my book group was that depending upon what drew you to the book made a difference in how you felt about the book. If you are drawn in by the descriptions of Alaska and life there, you probably will like the book. If you don’t like stories that are about dysfunctional families, alcoholism, and abuse, this is not the book for you.
Thanks for reading!