Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
“Leni saw suddenly how hope could break you, how it was a shiny lure for the unwary. What happened to you if you hoped too hard for the best and got the worst?” ― Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone
I am of two minds when it comes to this book. On one hand, it is compulsively readable; on the other, it is relentlessly bleak. Basically everything bad and frustrating that could happen, does happen, and after 435 pages, it gets exhausting. That being said, it was a well-written (if cliché-rich) and deeply atmospheric book. The character of Leni is certainly sympathetic, and I cared about what would happen to her and her mother. The plot is very emotionally involving and the slow pace with slightly jarring moments of action sort of works well with the contrast between the Alaskan beauty and its brutality. However, given the fact that it takes a long time for the plot to develop, the ending did feel a little rushed and rather cringe-worthy. The most interesting part of this book, for me, was the description of life in rural Alaska. I knew next to nothing about this state (beyond the whole Sarah Palin debacle, and the less said about her, the better) and it was fascinating to learn about the trials of the day-to-day, and the way the season's changes hugely impact the lives of the residents. I also liked that this book was set in the 70s and 80s, before cell phones and the internet, which served to strengthen the sense of other-worldliness, and of course the effects of Vietnam War were a critical part of this story and why it had to be set in this time.
I know I sound a little critical of the book, and maybe, once time has passed and my frustration with the relentless misery foisted upon the characters has worn off, I will be inclined to change this review a bit. For now, though, I can say it was a worthwhile read, but a fairly draining one as well, and in a different way than Hannah's previous WWII novel, The Nightingale, which I thought was stunning and heartbreaking at once.