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The great alone
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Author Notes
Kristin Hannah was born in Southern California in September 1960. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in an advertising agency and practiced law in Seattle.

Hannah and her mom began writing a novel together when her mother was suffering from cancer. When her mother died, she put the draft away and continued to practice law. While pregnant with her son, and on bed rest, she took out the draft that she and her mother had written and began to write in earnest. Her draft was done by the time she gave birth. In 1990, she became a published writer and has been writing ever since.

She has won numerous awards including the Golden Heart, the Maggie and 1996 National Reader's Choice award. In 2004, she won the Rita Award for Best Novel: Between Sisters. Her title Winter Garden made the New York Times Bestseller List for 2011. Many of Hannah's other titles have made the New York Times Bestsellers List since then including: Night Road, Home Again, Home Front, Fly Away, The Nightingale, Comfort and Joy, True Colours, and The Great Alone. She has written a series entitled Girls of Firefly Lane which includes the books, Firefly Lane, and Fly Away.

Two of her books are being made into feature films, The Nightingale, and Home Front.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Fiction/Biography Profile
Coming of age
Family conflicts
Alaska - South (U.S.)
Time Period
1974 -- 20th century
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Trade Reviews
New York Times Review
Two new coming-of-age novels - one set in Wisconsin during World War II and the other in post-Vietnam-era Alaska - feature teenage girls trying to cope with damaged, destructive fathers. The narratives differ in tone, setting and style, but their protagonists share a longing for truth and stability in turbulent homes where secrets and lies abound. Meghan Kenny's debut novel, "The Driest Season," grew out of her award-winning 2005 short story of the same title. This resulting quiet but satisfying novel about a long, hard summer expands her original raw, exquisite portrait of a girl in crisis into a broader examination of American adolescent anxiety and grief, contextualized by devastating global conflict. The haunting first sentences reveal the death-byhanging of 15-year-old Cielle's father, whom she is the first to find in his barn: "She looked and didn't look. Her father hung still, bloated and blue." Not every great short story is the seed of a great novel, but Kenny by and large succeeds. This suicide is far from the only tragedy in the book, which even so never veers toward the melodramatic. Instead, Kenny reveals, with a clarity so delicate it is sometimes painful, the human reaction to trauma. Time slows and senses heighten in those first moments following the daughter's discovery. "Cielle stood a moment at the door, expecting the world to stand still with her, but it didn't. Clouds like stretched gauze moved quickly above, the tire swing in the oak tree shifted, and its chains creaked." Cielle experiences life the way most teenagers do - she's hyperaware of her immediate world and detached from the larger scheme of things (her consciousness of the war in Europe is limited to the boys she knows who are going off to fight in it, and the rationing of food and gas). Though Kenny offers little exposition about the era, her austere landscapes and careful attention to color and light evoke the paintings of Andrew Wyeth or Edward Hopper, or the poetry of William Carlos Williams, suffusing the book with a midcentury mood throughout. Less placid is Kristin Hannah's "The Great Alone." Hannah has written more than 20 books since 1991, and her fan base has grown along with her oeuvre. Her most recent novel, "The Nightingale," topped the best-seller list for much of 2015, and a movie adaptation is in development. Her new novel has wasted no time catching up, having already been optioned for film rights as well. It's easy to see why: Like "The Nightingale," which was set in France during World War II, this novel features a camera-friendly backdrop - this time, Alaska - and a Hollywood-ready sentimentality. It's 1974 and the signs of the times flash vividly for 13-yearold Leni Allbright. In the first five pages alone she contemplates EST seminars, the I.R.A., Watergate, the Munich Olympics massacre, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and, of course, Vietnam, where her father, Ernt, was a prisoner of war. He's been suffering from post-traumatic stress ever since, and Leni and her mother, Cora, suffer too as Ernt moves them from one home to another, trying to find peace in a chaotic world. When Ernt learns that a former war buddy has bequeathed him a cabin and land in Alaska, he believes this will be his salvation. Though Leni and Cora have misgivings about leaving their current home in Seattle, they share Ernt's hope for a restorative new life in the last frontier. The family arrives on the picturesque, sparsely populated Kenai Peninsula, where they immediately meet the neighbors. Hannah, a former attorney, seems determined to prove beyond a doubt that what the locals lack in number they make up for in personality. First she presents the heavyset, middle-aged woman who owns the dry goods store: "Folks call me Large Marge," she informs the newcomers. Shortly thereafter, we meet an elderly man, apparently somewhat unhinged, who offers, "Folks call me Mad Earl." Folks don't just have descriptive nicknames in Hannah's Alaska; they have a tendency to use bumpersticker-like slogans in everyday conversation. Within minutes of meeting the Allbrights, Large Marge issues a warning in a series of adages: "Two kinds of folks come up to Alaska, Cora. People running to something and people running away from something. The second kind - you want to keep your eye out for them. And it isn't just the people you need to watch out for, either. Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There's a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you." In the very next chapter, Earl's daughter repeats Marge's admonition almost verbatim: "In Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you." And this is where I got excited, thinking the town might actually be a "Westworld"-like theme park where the locals are robots, programmed to talk like Alaskans of yore, repeating party lines in place of independent human communication. Sadly, I was wrong; Hannah's characters are just people who like to pepper-spray you with prepackaged plot points, like bitches with sawed-off shotguns. Hannah is a generous author, often doing the work of the writer and the reader. After reading an entire chapter about how dark and dangerous the Alaska winter is - and how similarly dark and dangerous Leni's father is becoming - one might still ask which danger, the climate or the man, presents the focal threat of the novel. Rather than leaving this question to hang in productive ambiguity, Hannah offers the answer. "All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home." Leni and her neighbor Matthew fall in love, but there's very little heat in this teenage romance. It's hard to warm up to a kid who says things like "Nothing is normal in the last frontier" and "This is Alaska. We live and let live." (However, by the time they're a few years older, their lovemaking is screenplay-ready.) Kristin Hannah has clearly found a commercial sweet spot, sticking to the everpopular themes of young love, family drama, loss and redemption, but giving her novels a literary boost by placing them in historical settings. "The Great Alone" is not without its moments of compelling pathos, though, and therein lie its strongest connections with Kenny's prose. Like Cielle, who is smart enough to see through the deceptions her mother comes up with to shelter her, Leni too experiences a moment of disillusionment. All her life she'd "believed her mama's explanations ... that Dad was sick and sorry, that if they loved him enough, he would get better and it would be like Before. Only Leni didn't believe that anymore." But the tidy summaries Hannah often provides for her complex subjects aren't needed, given her admirable storytelling skills. We've witnessed Leni's growing discernment; we don't need the book-clubready clarifications that accompany too many scenes. In contrast, Cielle's gradual awakening and maturation are made all the more visceral thanks to Kenny's faith that her reader is as acutely perceptive as her beguiling young heroine. ? ANN leary is the author, most recently, of the novel "The Good House."
Library Journal Review
Meet the Allbrights: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-afflicted Vietnam War returnee Ernt, his perennially in-denial wife Cora, and mature-beyond-her-years teenager Leni. Bequeathed a remote homestead in 1974 by a fallen army buddy, Ernt relocates his family to wild, remote Alaska, chasing dreams of self-sufficiency and simple independence. The family's dramatic unraveling as unprepared pioneers is exacerbated by Ernt's alcoholism-fueled brutality, Cora's desperate forgiveness, and Leni's unwillingness to reveal her parents' toxic bond even to the most welcoming, experienced locals. Despite her complicity, Leni finds friendship and love-and, eventually, salvation. Chameleonic veteran Julia Whelan makes the 15 hours of Hannah's (The Nightingale) latest best seller unstoppable, as she agilely narrates the twists and turns. Her characterizations beyond the fearsome trio are especially affecting, including general store owner (and former DC prosecutor!) Large Marge and Leni's soulmate Matthew in all his post-accident frustration and miraculous struggles toward recovery. Throughout the darkness and destruction that abounds, remember the name is Allbright-glimmers of lightness illuminate, with a final on-the-bright-water scene that will leave readers swathed in relief and joy. VERDICT Libraries should prepare for guaranteed demand. ["Not a cozy read, yet Hannah's fans will appreciate the astuteness of the story and the unbreakable connection between mother and child": LJ 10/1/17 review of the St. Martin's hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Voice actor Whelan ratchets up the suspense in her tense narration of this tale of Ernt Albright, a Vietnam vet with PTSD, who takes his wife, Cora, and 13-year-old daughter, Leni, to Alaska to live off the grid. After a soldier buddy dies and leaves Ernt a plot of land with a shack, the family moves there, hoping that a life among nature and fending for themselves will be a fresh start and a good fit for Ernt. But the isolation, darkness, and cold only exacerbate Ernt's irrational paranoia and anger. Whelan easily differentiates the voices of the three main characters: Ernt growls with rage, and Cora's voice trembles with fear while attempting to sound light and casual as she tries to placate Ernt, and Leni sounds both youthful and frightened. The secondary characters are just as memorable. Whelan gives a no-nonsense tone to Large Marge, a neighbor; she also perfects the ranting and raving of Mad Earl, a conspiracy theorist whose far-out beliefs fuel Ernt's paranoia. Whelan is especially effective during the violent scenes: instead of getting louder or more emotional, she drops her voice to a tense and chilling whisper. This edge-of-your-seat audiobook will keep listeners riveted. A St. Martin's hardcover. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Set in 1974 Alaska, this sweeping tale follows a girl coping with the dangers of domestic violence. Though ill-prepared for the extreme and harsh conditions, 13-year-old Leni and her parents, Ernt and Cora, have to learn how to survive in the unforgiving wild of their new home on the Kenai Peninsula. With the help of the small-knit community of endearing fellow homesteaders, the Allbrights manage to just barely stay afloat. But Ernt, who has never recovered from the trauma of fighting in the Vietnam War, struggles with the isolation and the interminably dark days of winter. Leni grows up witnessing her father (who is increasingly unable to control his paranoia and jealousy) abuse her beloved mother. Leni's greatest comfort and escape is her schoolmate and neighbor Matthew. Over the years, their friendship evolves into a forbidden romance. Hannah highlights, with vivid description, the natural dangers of Alaska juxtaposed against incongruous violence. VERDICT Give to teens who loved the author's The Nightingale and to fans of Jodi Picoult.-Tara Kehoe, Charlotte Mecklenburg -Library, Charlotte, NC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Hannah (The Nightingale, 2015) takes readers on a journey to Alaska in the 1970s with the Allbright family: damaged Vietnam vet Ernt; his devoted wife, Cora; and their 13-year-old daughter, Leni, the novel's protagonist. Initially unhappy to leave her Seattle home, Leni soon falls in love with the wilds of remote Kaneq. Leni adjusts to the lack of electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing, but her father's increasingly erratic and violent behavior is much harder to endure. Leni finds an escape in her books and her one-room school, where she meets Matthew, the only other kid her age in the area. Matthew becomes Leni's best friend and eventually her first love. But Leni's father's irrational hatred of Matthew's family threatens to keep them apart, and Leni fears her father's uncontrollable rage could be the death of her and her fragile mother. Though smaller in scope than her previous blockbuster, in this tightly focused drama, Hannah vividly evokes the natural beauty and danger of Alaska and paints a compelling portrait of a family in crisis and a community on the brink of change. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: In addition to the draw of Hannah's massive popularity, this dark family adventure will be rolled out with an enormous first print run, extensive media coverage, and a major author tour.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Review
In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, "Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you." There are many great things about this bookone of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, "Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There's a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you." Hannah's (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet-like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.A tour de force. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

#1 New York Times Instant Bestseller

In Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone , a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature.

Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter north where they will live off the grid in America's last true frontier.

Cora will do anything for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents' passionate, stormy relationship, has little choice but to go along, daring to hope this new land promises her family a better future.

In a wild, remote corner of Alaska, the Allbrights find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the newcomers' lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt's fragile mental state deteriorates. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own.

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