Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you find a great Kristin Hannah book or something similar?

I read The Great Alone, a title that had gotten a lot of buzz when it came out and a lot of very good reviews. However, I was warned by a couple friends that the book was pretty dark and sad so I was a little worried.

Well, my friends were right – it is dark and very sad in parts – but the reviewers were right too. Hannah is an excellent writer, able to draw you into another world quickly and able to keep the tension of “what happens!” rolling throughout the book. It might not be my favorite book of all time, but I couldn’t put it down and I haven’t stopped thinking about the themes in the book and what happened.

Set mostly in the mid-to-late 70s, The Great Alone is about a family that moves north to Alaska. Ernt Allbright has been nearly destroyed by the Vietnam War where he spent six years as a prisoner of war. Haunted by nightmares and unable to fit in, he takes his wife Cora and daughter Leni to Alaska to establish a homestead in a remote cabin far from the pressures of modern life.

Cora is ill-suited to the harsh work required to survive, but she loves Ernt deeply and follows willingly. At 13, Leni has no choice but to go with them but finds that there is a terrible beauty to Alaska that appeals to her and shapes her into the woman she will become.

At first, Ernt seems better. The family arrives in Alaska in the early summer, the neighbors and small town welcome them and they start to build a life. However, they are woefully unprepared for an Alaskan winter and the pressure builds in Ernt. He begins drinking too much, becomes convinced the government is coming to kill them all and then becomes abusive, beating Cora and punishing Leni for any mistake, real or imagined. Isolated and far from any help, Leni and her Mother must band together to survive not only the harsh conditions, but the danger from within.

This is a fascinating look at family dynamics, the strength of character and adaptability of people, and the devastating, long-term effects of war and PTSD. Throughout it all, Alaska looms large with it’s incredible beauty and unforgiving landscapes, a central character in it’s own right.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?


6 thoughts on “Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap-Up

  1. I listen to Heat Wave by Nancy Thayer. The story is about a young widow who needs to provide for her two daughters. She has to deal with her in laws, old money Nantucket, friends about her decision to turn her family home into a bed and breakfast. Since I’m not a romance reader, in introduce me to this genre.
    Thanks Online Reading Challenge for expanding my reading selections.

  2. I also read The Great Alone. There were times when I found situations so intense that I had to put it down yet I couldn’t quit thinking about it either. I am glad I read it and proved to me once again that Kristin Hannah is a very good storyteller.

  3. For January I thought I would try a new author. I do read Kristin Hannah – one of my favorites is The Great Alone. She has a knack for creating a sense of place and drawing the reader in. I agree, Alaska was absolutely a huge presence in the story.

    Back to January. I decided to try one of the read-a-likes suggested. Without doing any research on the author or the story, I chose to listen to Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. I have to say, when making the decision I judged the book by it’s cover. Three women walking arm and arm into the distance will surely be a feel good chick lit story, right? Imagine my surprise that one of those girls was a prisoner in Poland in WWII, another a German doctor in a work camp. Nothing light and fluffy here.

    Not an easy read because of the subject matter, the writing style made it impossible to put aside. Like a train wreck, it was impossible to look away. This one I was happy to finish, to walk away from the suffering and personal tragedy presented.

    The second book in the series, Lost Roses, is not quite as harsh. I’m very much looking forward to digging in to the third!

  4. I have heard that Lilac Girls is intense. It sounds like one of those books you’re not likely to re-read, but it will stay with you a long time. Thanks for joining us for the Challenge! Ann

  5. I agree, Hannah is an excellent storyteller – it’s nearly impossible to put down her books even when the story is very difficult. Her newest title just came out – The Four Winds set during the Great Depression. It will probably be pretty intense too! Thanks for reading with us! Ann

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