The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's Press (February 6, 2018)
448 pages
Advance review copy provided by publisher

After having read five of Kristin Hannah's novels, I expected her most recent publication, The Great Alone, to be emotionally heavy and beautifully written; it is most certainly both of those, yet I am left feeling rather conflicted. 

In the first half of the novel, those of us who have no knowledge of the history of Alaskan homesteaders are in for vividly explicit descriptions of the extreme winter conditions and endless summer days. Hannah does an incredible job of harnessing her own personal memories of Alaskan adventures and translating them into a captivating narrative, full of characters with potential for development. 

They lived on a piece of land that couldn’t be accessed by water at low tide, on a peninsula with only a handful of people and hundreds of wild animals, in a climate harsh enough to kill you. There was no police station, no telephone service, no one to hear you scream. For the first time, she really understood what her dad had been saying. Remote.

By the half way mark, I began to make some predictions (several of which materialized by the end) and feel a little less enchanted with the Alaskan wilderness and the ongoing domestic violence; much of this is due to a transference of personal beliefs/challenges on this topic, so readers should be aware of this trigger. 

Yelling was like a bomb in the corner; you saw it, watched the fuse burn, and you knew when it would explode and you needed to run for cover. Not speaking was a killer somewhere in your house with a gun when you were sleeping.

This novel is dense: not only in page count, but also in characters, narrative and possibilities. There were times, while reading, when I could not imagine how this story would draw to a close; I sent a message, after completing the novel, to friends Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves and Susie at Novel Visits to say that I thought the 76% mark (I read an electronic copy) would have been the perfect opportunity for a conclusion. 

While there were elements about this novel that I enjoyed - the descriptive writing, the setting, most of the characters the dynamics of their relationships - I would have traded some of the extended story in the last few chapters for a little more character development and nuance. 

Fans of Hannah's previous work will be pleased with The Great Alone and I have already read several favorable reviews; it's not The Nightingale, but it's not supposed to be. 

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