Kristin Hannah takes you to hard places in her books which I experienced first in The Nightingale. Her new book, The Great Alone, is no exception. It begins in 1974, with thirteen-year-old Leni coping with a father who is a former POW home from Vietnam afflicted with PTSD in a time when little was said or done about it, and a mother who is drawn back to his volatile abusive behavior. The book pictures vividly the mindsets of the abuser and the victim who keeps returning for more. The setting moves from Seattle to the wilds of Alaska to add yet another difficulty to her life.
Early on, Leni seems to be the most adult member of this dysfunctional family as she questions “How was Mama’s unshakable belief in Dad any different than his fear of Armageddon? Did adults just look at the world and see what they wanted to see, think what they wanted to think? Did evidence and experience mean nothing?” The question looms often of how many ways are there are to die in Alaska. In a bit of balance, the unique Alaskans who have carved out a life in this unforgiving land add color and helpfulness to the newcomers.
Tempted to close the book as one difficulty piles on the next, I really couldn’t but needed to turn yet another page since I couldn’t leave Leni in that chapter’s trouble. Also, there was a love interest as she grew up. Surely, something good would come of that.
I’m glad I stayed for the resolution, though Kristin Hannah took her own good time in coming to it. This thought-provoking book kept me turning pages, but I’ll need recovery. I think I’ll have time before she gets another one on the market.