The Great Alone (book review)

The Great Alone (book review)

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Warning: a couple wee spoilers.

I finished this book today. It wasn’t the kind I normally read, but it was recommended by someone I love, so I gave it a try.

It was melodramatic. There were no magical spells, spaceships, or alternate dimensions. It was about people. Relationships. Love, hate, anger, envy, and above all else, a relentless frontier spirit that drives the plot forward.

It’s set in Alaska, and I live in Alaska, so that pretty slick. But it’s set in the 70’s, which is different, and an angle I really enjoyed.

This story really pulls you in, I gotta say. The characters, especially the protagonist, Leni, came alive for me. More so than most books. A character-driven story, for sure, but there was plenty of action.

And plenty of violence. The domestic violence in this story really hurts to read, especially for those of us who’ve seen it first-hand on the job. I could almost identify with Leni, a witness to the effects of the violence but unable to really do anything about it. When I was a Trooper, I put handcuffs on more than a few DV abusers. As in this story, they always seemed to get out of jail in a few days, go home, and the victims would suddenly stop cooperating with the case. Charges would go away immediately. The bruises, however, took a lot longer to heal. Then the cycle would happen all over again.

Alaska is a character in this novel. I’ve never seen an environment come alive like this, a clear testament to the author’s research and effort in the area. The seasons, the fishing, the wildlife, all of it comes alive in the reader’s mind.

It’s hard to judge a story like this. It stands apart from most others. This story isn’t pretend. It’s real. It’s happening all the time, in many of the houses around us. Lives are being destroyed every day, and those victims try to put on a pretty face, smile, and pretend so that nobody will know the secret suffering that happens behind closed doors.

So, I guess I’m kinda ticked at Kristen Hannah. I like pretend. I like make-believe. I like being transported far away from the slings and arrows of this dark world we inhabit. The Great Alone doesn’t do that. On the contrary, it hits you in the face with raw, human experience. Pain. Disappointment. Broken dreams. There is no pretend. There is no make-believe. Only tears.

Dang, Kristin. Take it easy on us, will ya?

Five stars, for sure.

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