Book Review: Off The Grid With The Allbrights

The Great Alone is a novel written by Kristin Hannah. The story begins in 1974. Ernt Allbright is a former POW during the Vietnam War. He cannot seem to catch a break until he receives word of an inherited land in Alaska. He takes his wife and daughter into the untamed wilderness where he encounters a small community of outcasts. The family is ill-prepared for the harshest of winters. The story is told largely from the perspective of Leni Allbright, the teen-age daughter. She notices her father’s grip on his sanity loosening. She certainly is finding it harder to overlook the beatings her mother takes when Ernt’s anger consumes him. As Leni gets older and becomes more attached to the community, her father becomes more irrational and dangerous.

Hannah has proven herself to be a formidable researcher and compelling writer. It’s a fairly lengthy work, but Hannah was able to keep me engaged with some intriguing characters and an ever increasing tension within the Allbright family. Not only has Hannah shown her diligence when it comes to her presentation of Alaskan culture, she also seems to understand the complexities of domestic violence as well. Cora Allbright, the much suffering wife and mother, somehow manages to be very misguided and yet understandably so as she attempts to protect her daughter from Ernt’s darker impulses. Of course, no fictional community is complete without a brash, wise black woman serving as mentor and protector, and Large Marge fits that bill quite nicely. Hannah creates quite a collection of supporting characters wanting to do more to help the female Allbrights, but circumstances force them to stand by as Ernt’s sanity and humanity slip away into the darkness of Alaska’s wilderness.

There are not many wrong notes to be found in this one. It can seem a little long at times, but Hannah gets the pacing mostly right. Hannah manages to pull off a few surprises in the story. There are some elements that seem a bit fanciful, but the story never veers too far off the road of believability. I am not too keen on the idea of roughing it like the Allbrights initially do at the beginning, but Hannah’s description of the wilds of Alaska does stoke the imagination and the desire to see the place for myself one day.

Sophie Aldred has proven herself to be an effective actress and is best known as Ace, companion of the Seventh Doctor. She takes on the role of Doctor Who novelist with At Childhood’s End.

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