Alaska is a vast land that many of us will never understand, let alone see physically. The Great Alone is a look into a family after the husband comes back from Vietnam and cannot get back into normal life. The alcohol certainly doesn’t help, and as they are on the brink of being homeless, with no money Ernt receives a letter that one of his buddies that he was in ‘Nam with left him some land in Alaska.
Ernt’s wife and daughter hope that this might be what it takes to get him out of the darkness that takes him over when alcohol is consumed and nighttime eases on in. The family of three packs the little they have and heads towards Alaska for a new beginning. The story is told through the daughter, Lenie. On the brink of becoming a teenager she is used to upheaval in her life and is excited but scared for this new adventure.
Alaska proves to be a hardship for the three of them. They are welcomed with opened arms, however quickly are told they have a lot to learn and prepare for if they want to make it. With the help of the community, the family gets settled in and life does seem good. It is very different than city living and they really are on their own, for everything. But they feel good about learning how to survive off the land and Ernt so far is doing ok- things just might turn around after all.
The darkness of the long winters in Alaska creeps in and so does the other side of Ernt. The drinking has not subsided and now as Lenie gets older, she is realizing the truth of what her father is, as well as all her mother has put up with, and continues to put up with. Not so much a child anymore Lenie is understanding that this might have been the worse decision they could have made, but this is also the only place that has ever felt like home.
This was such a good read! The author did an amazing job with visuals of Alaska, and its beauty- while capturing what life was like for those who came back from Vietnam and had to try and survive on their own, and integrate back into society. This was before PTSD was a thing, and when women still did not have much say when domestic violence was happening. A very interesting read about the 70’s.
~ Novels by Kristin Hannah ~