So back in the day I had a book blog called BaileysandBooks (and no it had nothing to do with Irish Baileys, but to a childhood tradition of going to Bailey’s Ice Cream in Boston following an afternoon at Barnes & Noble), and while trying to increase my writing and add more lifestyle to this blog, I immediately thought of writing about books, since reading has been a passion of mine since I have been little.
I recently finished The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and if you read her novel The Nightingale, you know Hannah’s capacity to draw you into a story and create a sense of tension throughout. Not so tense that you are filled with dread and can’t finish it, but that tension that creates a page-turner. This book definitely achieves that.
Starting in the 70s, we are introduced to young Leni, on the cusp of young adulthood, moving from the suburbs of Seattle to the wilds of Alaska when her Vietnam vet father Ernt inherits a war buddy’s property. In need of (another) fresh start, Ernt thinks this is just what he, his wife Cora, and Leni need, to be living off the land, and off the grid.
With much displeasure, but without a say, Leni begins to accept this new life as she sees her father return to be more of the man he was “before the war.” She makes due and starts to make a life for herself, settling into the chores to prepare for the dreaded winter they are repeatedly warned about from the locals. Come fall when it’s time for school, Leni meets Matthew, not just a boy her own age, but one who really seems to get her, and she is able to make a connection unlike she ever has.
Of course the shine of this new pioneer life and the renewed relationship between Leni’s parents begins to fade as the winter weather rolls in. Ernt becomes more fixated on independence, and grows more and more angry about those he feels are privileged. His old demons come back to haunt him, and his family.
As winter comes and goes throughout this book, it becomes very reminiscent of The Shining (which makes me laugh a little as Leni, an avid reader, mentions becoming very into Stephen King). Even when things are going well, you can’t help but wait for the other shoe to drop.
I did throughly enjoy this book. As it came towards the end there were some choices by Leni that lead to a lot of frustration by me (I hate when a character I like makes stupid decisions, but obvi that’s the point). It also seemed to have a bit of a rushed ending in that another “storm” was brewing, but was almost too quickly and neatly resolved. I wasn’t disappointed with the resolution, but it was a bit deus ex machina, as it could have been a whole book itself. But when you’re reading a fiction book where you love the main characters and the writing, you (or at least I) can put aside some pragmatic realism, for a bit of cleanly tying things up.
Overall – I gave this book 5 Stars on Goodreads. I definitely recommend, just maybe not in the winter months if you live in a snowy place, but this is not a beach read either.
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