What better background for the picture of a book that is set in Alaska than a blanket of snow?
With loads of emotional drama, an almost sappy romance, quite a few twists and turns to keep the readers on the edge, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah has all the ingredients that usually make a book a mainstream commercial success. But, it lacked the depth that I seek to connect with a story and the characters. More importantly, it lacked truthfulness from the author, which I really appreciate in the books I read. The things that I really enjoyed in this book are the vivid descriptions of Alaska and the descriptions of the harsh life over there for those who made it their home.
The characters felt very one dimensional to me. One of the main characters in the story, Ernt, suffers from PTSD after being a POW in the Vietnam war. He becomes abusive and suffers from rage issues once he returns home to his family. The biggest disappointment for me is there is really no perspective from Ernt’s side. Similarly, there is no perspective from Cora, his wife’s side as to why she bears with the abuse. We hear her telling her daughter repeatedly that her dad was a different man before going to the war but there really is no insight into the backstory between Cora and Ernt’s relationship before the war. Without all of this, Ernt became a one dimensional character – a sick, abusive husband. And Cora also became a one dimensional character – another sick, codependent personality.
Domestic abuse is a complex subject that needs more awareness. Often, the victims of domestic abuse are judged and criticized for staying in the relationship. This fear of judgment often makes them isolate themselves from their well wishers. I was hoping that that author would attempt to instill awareness in the reader via more character building for Ernt and Cora’s characters and more insight into their relationship before the war. Without all of this, this book turned out to be a shallow read for me. And the climax was so unreal and sappy that it felt like I was reading a YA novel.
I read Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale before and had the exact same feeling that I had with this book, but to a lesser extent. I could see why there were so many rave reviews for it but I couldn’t feel anything extraordinary there. Her writing, I feel, has a very mainstream, commercial tone to it. To me, that’s a major turn off. I appreciate honest, truthful writing where I don’t feel manipulated by the author. That said, I admit that I enjoyed parts of this book. It was a shallow read for me but that’s ok because I need some of these as well sometimes. Overall, this was a very average read. I own another one of Kristin Hannah’s books. I will read that one too at some point but I will pick it up when I am in the mood for something shallow that I could get in and out of easily without using much of my brain capacity.