The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
It’s 1974 and the Albrights, Ernt, Cora and Leni, are moving to Alaska. Leni is hoping that this move will be the one that sticks. That her dad will be happy and she will get some permanence in her life. It looks that way at first, but then the first winter starts and trouble comes with it.
Ernt Albright is a Vietnam veteran who was imprisoned for years before his release. He is damaged but refuses help and storms and the dark of Alaskan winters only fuel his night terrors, foul moods and paranoia. Living in the wilds off the grid isolates the small family more. As Ernt’s descent into madness increases Cora and Leni must do what they can to appease his demons and survive.
Alaska, the great alone of the title, comes to life in this book. You can feel the cold but also the sunshine; in all its guises it is always a place of beauty. It is a land of extremes, much as the lives of the Albrights. I wanted to feel for Ernt because of what he experienced during the war, but I can’t feel empathy for an abusive husband. I listened to this book and it was a hard listen. I read all sorts of horror novels and thrillers but this book, in my mind, was scarier than anything I’ve read in a while. Being stuck with someone so irrational and paranoid is something that I don’t even want to imagine; yet his wife and teenage daughter spend years in his company and you see the madness get worse and worse.
I don’t think I’ll be ruining anything to let you know that there is some happiness in the end (in my mind it’s a little unrealistic) but after what comes before it was nice to know that some happiness was born in the great alone.