The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah ended up being one of my favorite reads this year.
I actually purchased this book in the hardback form which is a bit unusual for me. Since I read sooo many books and my family often accuses me of being a book hoarder, I mostly borrow books from other readers or read cheap/free books on Kindle through Amazon Prime membership. But this one I had to have and used the following three reasons to support my purchase decision:
1 – Kristin Hannah is one of my all-time favorite authors.
2 – The cover is gorgeous. Love that little bit of metallic shine.
3 – Good friends of our family were planning a move to Alaska and this book would qualify as research.
I am SO DELIGHTED I bought the book. I think I could actually reread this book cover to cover, and that almost never happens for me. Hannah’s characters are vibrant and real, and the story is gripping as usual. It’s Alaska itself that shines through as the most real, living soul of the book. I fell in love with the place itself – it’s darkness, light, beauty, ocean, and snow (all very unexpected for this Southern girl!).
The storyline itself is hard, so hard. The father’s mental instability lands the mother and daughter in Alaska. I imagine this is a true order of events for so many people. My heart broke for the mother and daughter in this book (may I remind you that I almost always end up crying in every single Kristin Hannah book?), so I had to count on Hannah to bring us home to at least an ending that I could live with, if not actually happy, since that tends to be her way. It’s been a few months since I finished the book, so I can’t remember all of those details and won’t ruin it for you!
A major theme of the book is belonging. Who doesn’t want to belong? I do. I think we all spend a lot of time trying to belong – at work, with friends, in community or school groups, wherever we can. Belonging helps us know who we are, and I daresay that an Alaskan is very proud to claim the title. After all, doesn’t this title imply the sense of belonging to a harsh and beautiful land, and signify the strength of the person who is able to thrive in such a place?
And so to bring things back around to one of my justifications for purchasing the book, I pray that my sweet friends will find they truly belong in Alaska. As a longtime resident of the gentle, temperate Blue Ridge mountains, it’s hard for me to imagine belonging somewhere so wild and fierce in beauty, and formidable in every element of its environment. (Think giant mosquitoes if you need someplace to start! We can talk about bears and feet of snow later.)
In summary, I’m encouraging you to purchase, beg, borrow (but not steal) this book. Hannah’s story is epic, not a sweet bedtime story, but a tale as big as the mountains and sea where it is set. And please, oh please, don’t forget to tell me what you think – and if you feel that you could ever belong to a place so resolutely untamed by the drive for human comfort. I don’t know that I could…
*PS If you buy the book from my link, I might make some money to buy more books!