THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah: A Review

I received this book as a gift from a cousin/book buddy after she had read and enjoyed it. I read it some time back, but I’m just getting around to reviewing it since I have been so tied up with Cybils books lately. The Washington Post describes it as an “epic story” and it is one where the place/setting seems to be an important “character in the book.” Alaska–The Great Alone with its broad expanses of treacherous ice and snow and tiny towns hanging on for dear life to the icy crags of the mountains takes place in 1974. The Albright family, Cora, the mother: Ernt;  the father; and Leni, who at the opening is only thirteen and is their only child is “living off the grid.” In my mind’s eye I saw them as hippies, challenging a “place of incomparable beauty ands danger.” Ernt moves his family to a dilapidated house inherited from a relative in Alaska. No one bothers them, no one asks them questions, no one asks anything of them, but the community offers support and help that Ernt has trouble accepting. It is a community of “strong men and even stronger women.” The state and its people can be described by one word, “resilience.”

This is a story of fast action and dramatic scenes, that are as well-drawn as are the terrific characters. Leni, the responsible one, contrasted to her free spirited parents, never had a childhood. Ernt is an abuser who always promises things will be different, but there is always a “next time” that follows. Cora is weak, entrapped by the fierce, passionate love she and Ernt share.

This is a novel full of heartbreak and a tugging at the reader’s emotions.  It is a darned good read!


This 2018 collection of essays called to me from the display shelf at the public library because it was in large print and the cover design was appealing. The book’s subtitle is “Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say.”  Huffington Post called the author “the poet laureate of the ordinary”, and says she deals with “the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.”

Corrigan includes essays dealing with the loss (death) of a best friend and of her father and how both deaths affected all of their families. It is her meditation on life, love, and loss. Another reviewer said, “This book is about things we say to people we love [including ourselves] that make things better.” Much of the book flows in narrative form while the author thinks about events and happenings that occur. She “speaks” aloud to herself and to the reader. Oftentimes the essays brought me to tears. My favorite in this category was “Onward,” a letter written to Liz (the deceased best friend) letting her know how Liz’s husband and daughters are doing a year after her death.  It is moving and hopeful.

Although the book was “sad” in tone, it was also uplifting and downright inspiring. Altogether, I am glad I chose to read this book.