Once Upon A Book Club: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (4 out of 5)

Kristin Hannah’s newest title is the book I picked for the Literature Bandits this month. Most of the group enjoyed it, but one of the ladies really didn’t like it at all. Maybe the follow-up didn’t have the gravitas of her smash NYT bestseller, The Nightingale. My emotional rescue on this one was not as necessary; in fact, the total opposite. I did enjoy it, but I had total moments of frustration with Cora, the mother in the story. And you feel as if you should have empathy for Ernt, based on the fact that he was a POW in Vietnam and comes back a dark soul. I had zero for the character. Thirteen-year old Leni is our soul, and there are moments where you want to shake her into awareness. But truthfully, what teenage girl isn’t idealistic and hopeful for the good in someone? Most are, and Hannah captured that perfectly.

Ernt is a POW who makes it out of Vietnam, but when he comes back to his family (Cora and Leni), he is a storm cloud brewing. Lights out drinking doesn’t help him, either. A former friend and fellow soldier dies and leaves his home and land to Ernt. He sees this as a new beginning for he and his family, and they head to Alaska. From populated Seattle to Alaska? Talk about a huge change! Hannah paints a very stark, yet realistic version of Alaska. I enjoyed the poetic view of her vision of it through the eyes of our impressionable teen, Leni. Even more gutwrenching is how Ernt’s demeanor and behavior sharply veer from bad to worse. Cora takes the brunt of it, while Leni’s optimism that the change of scenery will change her father quickly evaporates. Leni falls hard for her friend and classmate Matthew, son of the man who is trying to make sweeping changes to the town, and someone that brings Ernt’s rage to a scary crescendo. Things get ugly, and the life that Leni and Cora have built in Alaska is threatened anew. Can they rebuild their shattered lives?

The landmark beauty of The Great Alone is captured beatifically by Hannah. Never have I fallen so much for a setting as I did here, thanks to Hannah’s language. Leni is a fantastic character, and her and Matthew’s tragic love story is a tugger on the old heart strings. The supporting cast is full of unique, independent characters that supplement the sprawling storyline. The only issue with The Great Alone is Cora and Ernt. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Cora puts up with way too much shit for the messed up domestic situation she is in, especially for the amount of protection that she constantly speaks about, in defense of Leni. Quite a few things come about in this novel that should make sense in light of the plot, but they seem unnecessarily cruel. That part of the novel is what I call cruel to be kind. She had a hell of a narrative going, but those few niggling details really push the believability factor and makes the reader say…way too much! And that keeps it from being a five star book. Great book club book, however, because of all of the differing characters traits and the level of frustration brought out among the members. There was quite a discussion going with the Bandits! So, on a scale of Kristin Hannah, this is not her best, but it is certainly a great epic novel overall.

~ by generationgbooks on April 29, 2018.

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