This is a haunting book about domestic violence and the power of belief set in the remote backcountry of rural Alaska in the 1970s and 1980s.
Leni Allbright is only 13 years old when her father makes the impulsive decision to settle in a shack bequeathed to him by a deceased Vietnam buddy “not far” from Homer, Alaska. Fortunately, they arrive in May, so that even though they are completely unprepared for an Alaskan winter, their kind-hearted neighbors have time to make sure they at least have some chance of survival.
This was meant to be a new beginning, but the harshness of 18 hours of darkness and the biting cold sends most folks packing after their first winter. Ernt Allbright, Leni’s father, doesn’t run. But he becomes meaner and more paranoid. And he takes his feelings out on Cora, his wife, and Leni’s mother.
Leni’s mother is like an animal caught in a trap. It is only her belief in her husband’s essential goodness – while he beats her bloody – that prevents her from going insane.
Over the four years that they stay there, Ernt Allbright’s mood doesn’t improve, a fact that sent some readers running away from this book. And even though I see what they mean when they complain that the bad guys are very very bad, and the good ones very good, I think they are being unfair to author Kristin Hannah. For I found her portrayal of Vietnam Vet Ernt Albright compelling and entirely believable. If there is simply no help for a traumatized individual, a POW from the hell of Vietnam, then there is going to be nothing to look forward to in this life either for this person or his family.
I won’t say more so as not to spoil this story for those of you who have not yet read it. Suffice it to say, I did NOT find the plot predictable. Of course, there is tragedy, how could there not be in such a dark tale? But it is not in the way you might think. Five stars.Buy your copy of Kristin Hannah’s THE GREAT ALONE here