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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

A lot of my friends really love Kristin Hannah but I hadn't read her before. Many of her previous books seemed too cheesy for me, and while The Nightingale certainly wouldn't be, I am still well into Year Two of my WWII moratorium. But then this book came out, and it didn't seem cheesy at all: a young girl and her family move to Alaska which they hope will help her father's post-Vietnam PTSD. Plus I visited Alaska last year!

Wow, this book was really great. It stayed with me for a long time. Leni is 13 when the book starts, an only child, and it's heartbreaking to watch her father abuse Leni and her mother, especially when you know what we do now about PTSD and triggers and alcoholism. But in 1974, much, much less was known, and they were just doing their best to get by. Her dad is a lot better when  he's outside and away from people, so when an army friend leaves him some land and a small house in Alaska, it seems like a great place to heal. But it might be too few people. And for half the year, there's no going outside at all. Instead, you're trapped in your house. Isolated, all alone, without even phone service, trapped in the house with her angry, volatile, out-of-control father.

In the first half of the book, there were times I wanted to stop reading. The abuse and the terrifying situation Leni was in, left me super anxious and emotionally hurting for her—which is a testament to Ms. Hannah's writing. Parts of the book were almost as scary as a horror book. And really, on reflection, it's not all that different (except with no magic) than Stephen King's The Shining in its isolation and terrifying danger. Being that alone is scary in and of itself, without having a drunk enraged bear of a man coming after you.

For me, the ending was a little pat, but it was also interesting how she worked things out. Not for the faint of heart, but a really well-written book on a subject I don't often read about, told by a stand-up teen who has to be far older than her years to get through her own childhood.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

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