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Instant #1 New York Times bestseller, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, was a book that moved me deeply. This is a plot summary and review of The Great Alone with inspiration from this popular, mesmerizing, and gut-wrenching story.

the great alone by kristin hannah and collage of postcards related to it.
  • #1 New York Times instant bestseller
  • People “Book of the Week”
  • Buzzfeed’s “Most Anticipated Women’s Fiction Reads of 2018”
  • Seattle Times’s “Books to Look Forward to in 2018”

When I started this blog, I knew I would eventually devote a post to this book, one of Kristin Hannah’s best books (along with The Nightingale and Firefly Lane!). Get inspired by Kristin Hannah’s Alaska book below with a brief summary, review, and playlist.


Summary and Review of The Great Alone

an intoxicating setting and an emotionally gripping plot that haunts you

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about

Kristin Hannah is one of the best historical fiction authors of 20+ popular novels, including the unforgettable #1 New York Times bestselling World War II novel, The Nightingale, which is being adapted into a movie.

Did you know?: Kristin Hannah’s Alaska descriptions were drawn from her own experience living in Alaska as a child, which created the vivid backdrop of The Great Alone.

Below is a basic plot summary and review of The Great Alone.

“It was otherworldly somehow, magical in its vast expanse. An incomparable landscape.”

Kristin Hannah, “The Great Alone”

The Great Alone transports the reader to Alaska in 1974 for an epic family tale of resilience.

Ernt Allbright is a former Prisoner of War, who returns home from the Vietnam War with PTSD. After losing his job, he impulsively decides to move to Alaska, where he, his wife Cora, and his thirteen-year-old daughter Leni will live in America’s last true frontier, fighting for survival literally and figuratively.

While Leni feels caught between her father’s PTSD and her parents’ tumultuous relationship, she befriends a local boy. And as the harsh Winter approaches, survival becomes necessary when these characters face a string of haunting traumatic events as dark and cold as Winter itself. The results are both beautiful and devastating.

The Great Alone is an unforgettable winter-themed book that has stayed with me since I first read it, and I still think about the picturesque but harsh reality of the Alaskan backdrop.

Never has the setting of a book been so intoxicating to me than the Vietnam-era Alaska that Kristin Hannah described. On numerous occasions, I found myself googling “Alaska 1970s” to get an even clearer picture of the beautiful state which was itself the main character in this book. (That’s what I call a real book hangover!)

While I felt it contained a bit too many dramatic events, its riveting words that kept me up all night still made it a five-star read for me.

The Great Alone Playlist

The playlist below contains songs referenced in The Great Alone, as well as songs that, according to Kristin Hannah, were in her mind as she was writing the book:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the story of The Great Alone?

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is set in Alaska in 1974. Ernt Allbright is a former Prisoner of War who returns home from the Vietnam War with PTSD. He impulsively decides to move to Alaska, where he, his wife Cora, and his thirteen-year-old daughter Leni will live in America’s last true frontier. While Leni feels caught between her father’s PTSD and her parents’ tumultuous relationship, she befriends a local boy. As the harsh Winter approaches, survival becomes necessary when these characters face a string of haunting traumatic events as dark and cold as Winter itself. The results are both beautiful and devastating.

What is the message from The Great Alone?

The message from The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is one of resilience. The harsh Alaskan setting is a metaphor for life. Just as Alaskans like the characters of the novel must fight to survive the depths of winter in order to be reborn in the spring, so too must humans.

Is The Great Alone worth reading?

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a #1 New York Times bestseller that is worth reading if you like Alaskan settings, historical fiction and/or heartwrenching stories of women’s struggles to survive difficulties in life. It’s an immersive and powerful novel about human resilience.

Is The Great Alone Based on a true story?

No. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a historical fiction novel about the struggle to survive in Alaska in 1974. However, Kristin Hannah’s has said that her Alaskan descriptions were drawn from her own experience living in Alaska as a child.

Conclusion

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a deep dive into the rugged nature of Alaska — a metaphor for the resilient human experiences of its characters. The novel emotionally tackles gut-wrenching issues of love, war, and survival in ways that make it unforgettable. Whether you’re drawn to the intricate character development of strong women or the wild allure of the Alaskan backdrop, this novel promises to take you on a memorable literary journey.

Wondering what to read next? Try these authors like Kristin Hannah.

Keep the conversation going! Share your thoughts on The Great Alone or any remaining questions you may have in the comments below.


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7 Comments

  1. What a great post! I love Kristin Hannah’s books and have been meaning to pick this one up. Love the discussion questions.