Wilderness Survival Fiction Book: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I read Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone partly because it was the winner of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards in Historical Fiction and partly because I read and loved Kristin Hannah’s previous book, The Nightingale, which one the same prize in 2015. Kristin Hannah is clearly popular on Goodreads. I am not a fan of historical fiction and I enjoyed both if these books. The Great Alone is my favorite of the two, it is an amazing wilderness survival fiction book.

This is one of those books which appeals to a wide variety of readers because of the writing, setting and its theme. But this is especially for you if you like historical fiction, family centered dramas and a good tearjerker.

Former prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright, comes home from Vietnam changed. His disillusionment with society, volatile temper and incapacity to hold a job push him towards a decision which will change his and his family’s lives. Ernt has decided to move to Alaska, the last place on earth where man can still live off nature and be totally cut off from the vices of society.

Ernt’s wife, Cora, has done nothing but follow and idolize Ernt ever since she left her wealthy family behind. Ernt’s daughter, Leni, is 13, and all she wants is to belong. She learned to live in the shadows of their parents’ troubled and at times violent relationship.

Surviving Alaska and Surviving Ernt

How will they survive in the wilderness, where the only thing they can count on is the work of their own two hands? Will the secluded Alaskan life give peace to Ernt’s demons? Will they survive the dark and long Alaskan winter?

This is a beautiful story about survival in the wilderness and human resilience. In Alaska all you have to eat during wintertime is what you put aside and preserved during the short summer. Reading this novel felt like going back to the time of the first American pioneers and their battle against the elements in order to carve out a living for themselves in the harshest conditions.

This book will captivate you with its beautiful Alaskan landscape and description of frontier life. You will be completely sucked into the story of the Allbrights and the Alaskan community in which they live.

The family works itself to the bone after they arrive just to survive their first winter, which according to the community is the harshest for all newcomers. I loved how everyone came together to help each other out. You truly get a sense of how tight these people are and how well they know each other, and how they drop everything when one of them is in need.

What is truly beautiful about this book is that the battle for survival runs parallel with the inner survival of this family, as Ernt’s mental state is volatile. He is suffering from PTSD, a condition not diagnosed and treated in the 70s and as time passes and winter comes his mood gets darker and darker. I hated Ernt and did not understand how Cora could stand by him despite everything he’s done. Poor Leni was the one stuck in the middle, growing up in a home where at times she and her mother needed to be invisible and quiet as mice as to not to disturb and cause Ernt to lash out at them.

I loved the setting of this book, but what takes the story to a whole other level is the characters, their difficulties and their development. This books is as much about domestic abuse as it is about survival in the harshest of conditions.

It has romance, survivalism, snowstorms, near-death experiences and animal encounters. I think this would make a great movie.

Other Recommendations

At times it reminded me of Educated by Tara Westover. It had the same ‘living off the grid’ feel and both had a similar father figure, abusive and paranoid.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is another great book (and movie) if you’re into these type of wilderness survival fiction books and you like Alaska as a setting. But bare in mind that Into the Wild is based on a true story. I have the book on my shelves but it will be such a heartbreaking read that I can’t make myself pick it up.

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