The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Updated: Apr 1
"Alaska isn't about who you were when you headed this way. It's about who you become."
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.
The Great Alone is yet another historical fiction knock-out by Hannah who takes us on an emotional journey, winding through the great Alaska frontier with Leni and her family.
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.
What are your thoughts about Ernt’s PTSD and subsequent behaviors? How do you think things would have turned out differently if he were able to receive help?
If you were Cora would you have followed Ernt’s plan to move to Alaska?
How would life have been different if Cora was able to leave the cabin for good?
Discuss Leni and Matthew’s relationship. Why were they drawn to one another?
How does the title “The Great Alone” depict the storyline?