**Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for my free finished copy to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
“Wild. That’s how I describe it all. My love. My life. Alaska. Truthfully, it’s all the same to me. Alaska doesn’t attract many; most are too tame to handle life up here. But when she gets her hooks in you, she digs deep and holds on, and you become hers. Wild. A lover of cruel beauty and splendid isolation. And God help you, you can’t live anywhere else.”
I finished this book last week but needed some time to process my thoughts and feelings. Without giving away any spoilers, let’s just say that this book hit very close to home. I was raised with an angry, volatile, and abusive stepfather. My mom, brother, and I continually walked on eggshells, never quite sure what would set my stepdad off. What didn’t cause a problem one day would be the same thing that was grounds for a massive explosion the next. It wasn’t until years later that I realized just how agonizing and difficult it is to live under these conditions on a daily basis. It took me years, and lots of patience on my husband’s part, to recondition my mind and view on what “love” is. I am grateful every day that I was one of the lucky few who broke free from the abusive cycle and that my children don’t know what it’s like to live in a home that’s in a constant upheaval.
Maybe it’s because I had such a personal connection to the story, but I tore through this one. I could not read it fast enough. It was heartbreaking, but in the end, it was also full of hope.
Leni’s coming-of-age story shows strength, determination, survival, and above all else, hope. Against the backdrop of beautiful Alaska, Leni is thrust onto a scene she knows absolutely nothing about. As winter sets in, her family must learn the very basic skills necessary to survive the grueling elements. Living in the Last Frontier is not for the faint of heart! Despite her brutality, the Allbrights come to love Alaska. The neighbors become family and offer protection to Leni and her mother when they needed it the most.
I felt like Hannah did a wonderful job of portraying the contradicting emotions of an abused woman. While it may seem like a very simple decision to leave an abusive husband, it’s oftentimes much more complicated than just walking out the door. I didn’t think the abusive scenes were unrealistic, though this is one critique that I have heard quite a bit. To me, Hannah gave just enough narrative to get the point across, but didn’t dwell on the details like she could have. The fact of the matter is: this story revolves around an abusive husband/father and there’s really no way to get around that in order to make readers more comfortable.
(**Obvious trigger warnings for anyone that has a history with abuse!**)
Also, I loved Hannah’s character development in this one. I even had a soft-spot for Leni’s father. Hannah made me feel his brokenness when it would have been far easier to create a character that was easy to hate. I rooted for Leni and her mother throughout the novel. Were some of her mother’s decisions difficult to understand? Absolutely. But again, unless you’ve lived under similar circumstances, these decisions may not make a whole lot of sense. To me, it was very realistic – and heartbreaking. An unexpected character that emerged for me was the state of Alaska herself. She is definitely a character in this book and Hannah painted her so beautifully she made me think I could survive a winter living there (if you know me, this is a totally laughable statement)!
There are certain books that make me tear up every now and then, but this one had me sobbing my heart out. I loved the characters, the scene, and the emotions of this book. I feel confident in saying this will be one of my favorite reads of 2018!
3 thoughts on “The Great Alone”
I’m so sorry to hear that about your childhood. I had a similar father – angry, verbally (though not physically) abusive and we were walking on eggshells all the time. But, I had a different reaction to this book. I was furious with Cora’s decision-making (trying to avoid spoilers here, but I think you know what I’m talking about) and could not read one more second of it. DNF for me.
Yes, it was frustrating. However, I watched my mom make the same decisions over and over again. Something that was missing from the book was the part of the abuse cycle where the abuser mentally and verbally diminishes the woman’s mind to the point where they feel helpless and lost and alone and, most importantly, unworthy. I completely agree that she should have left with her daughter, but from experience, it’s not that easy. Not only was money tight, but there’s a lot of shame involved. And hope that things will get better. And love. I could go on and on, but I think I related because I lived it. Didn’t make it less frustrating, but it was very realistic to me.