Monday, May 28, 2018

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah ------------------ 4 Stars

Kristin Hannah is most well known for the wonderful novel, The Nightingale (review here). So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I decided to take on her newest book, The Great Alone. This was not a book I was particularly looking forward to and, knowing how strong her last novel was, I was worried she couldn't match. But as I couldn't find another book to take on at the moment, I gave it a try. And, for the most part, I'm pretty glad I did.

The story follows a family of a Vietnam vet venturing to a remote part of Alaska to set up a new life. The family includes a caring wife and open minded daughter. The book starts off slow and continues to be real slow. In fact, nearly the whole first half is told in a very meandering, placid style. I'm quite convinced that the author does so partly to build interest, but more so, to have the reader better appreciate and get a sense of the pace of living in Alaska. One of the most enjoyable, and frightening parts of the novel, is how well Hannah describes and makes you, almost viscerally, understand what it's like living in Alaska. Her descriptions of this amazing state is one of the reason I enjoyed the novel as I did. To be clear, I would never want to live there and appreciate more now than ever before, the great challenge those living in Alaska year round face.

After a lot of set up and a couple of quick time changes, the novel started to really take off. Actually, for a little while, I thought it took off too quickly. It was odd to go from no real action to an avalanche of wild things taking place so quickly. I was beginning to think the author blew it and took this carefully told story and went full on action movie. But, with great care, she turned it back to the tender love story from the beginning and brought the reader back to where she began. I really think she did a phenomenal job of returning to ome of the original story lines while making sure that they fit with the movement forward of the story.

Overall, this is a well told story about life in Alaska, young love, and the unpredictable challenges life provides. Although I doubted the book before I even began, about half way into, and again as the story neared the end, I should not have. Hannah did a great job of taking the reader on an interesting and enjoyable adventure into Alaska and beyond.

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