I began reading this book thinking it was going to be just like Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. I was very surprised when I was not on the edge of my seat, eager to turn the page to see what would happen next. That said, when I turned the final page of The Great Alone and set the book on my desk, I realized they were more alike than had I thought. This is only the second of Hannah’s novels that I have read and although these two novels are opposite in many ways, they do carry a few very important themes.
The story of The Great Alone is from a young girl Leni’s perspective. As a child of a war veteran of Vietnam and a lovesick beauty, Leni is faced with heartache at every turn. Her father, who suffers from post-traumatic stress inherits an old war buddies property up in the woods of Alaska. He forces his wife and daughter Leni to pack up their few belongs head the last frontier.
They arrive unprepared but willing to learn. The people of this small forgotten town welcome them with open arms, but it is not enough to survive. The small family’s resources soon begin to dwindle, as the days turn into a very long and never end night. The slivers of daylight take a toll on Lani’s father and although she is aware of her parent’s arguments and mothers bruises, they become steadily worse.
Over the course of this novel, readers observe a poisonous love, along with a love that conquers all, a heat of passion, a cover-up and a taste of the Alaskan wild.
Leni’s determination and strength to pull her family and those she loves from the darkness is truly admirable. In both The Nightingale and in The Great Alone, Hannah highlights the bond and the strength of women. The women in her novels have a determination and a willingness to do anything for what they love and what is right. Hannah does a fantastic job of showing that you do not have to have it all to make a difference. All you have to do is to love whether that is loving your soulmate, a mother, a sister, a mentor, or the place you call home and risking everything for it.