The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Although I’m from the Pacific Northwest, which is relatively close to Alaska compared to the rest of the United States, I haven’t had much of an interest in visiting the Northern state. That is, until reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I’m reminded (again) that books, especially powerful vivid ones like this, have the ability to sway our thinking.

Hannah takes the reader on a survivor’s journey in her new book, The Great Alone. Leni and her mother are two peas in a pod, inseparable, and when her father returns from the Vietnam War where he was a POW, they have the opportunity to live as a family again. Unfortunately, Leni’s father, Ernt is having a hard time adjusting back to his old life and is haunted by vicious memories. Violent memories. Then they receive a letter saying that there’s a piece of land and a cabin in Alaska that’s all theirs and the family packs up a VW bus and drives on up.

They are shocked by how unprepared they are for the rugged Alaskan lifestyle as well as the beauty that greets them. Leni comes to love her new home and feels accepted in a way she never has before. She meets Matthew, who quickly becomes her best friend. As they settle into their new life, with the help of the community around them, Ernt becomes increasingly paranoid and dangerously violent. So much so that Leni and her mother need to make a choice regarding how they want to live their lives.

The story is filled with vivid descriptions of the Alaskan terrain, pioneer spirit, and heart wrenching relationships. Hannah sure knows how to pack a punch. Needless to say, I loved this book!

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A Few Favorite WWII Historical Fiction Novels

As we get older our reading choices develop and change. Over the last couple years, I’ve found myself drawn to historical fiction novels more than ever, especially those focusing on Europe during World War II. A terrible time in history, I find these stories both horrifying and fascinating. Three of my favorite books of this period also happen to take place in France during this time.

  1. The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This is an excellent book sharing the powerful story of two sisters and how they each cope with the Nazi occupation in France. I was completely taken away by the bravery of these women and have recommended this book over and over again.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Another great book, this is a beautifully written story with flashes of scenes between characters and time All the Light We Cannot Seeperiods. Two characters, a young blind girl in France and a brilliant German boy who is recruited by the Nazis, offer readers very interesting perspectives. As the book goes on we see how their worlds collide during wartime.

  1. Sarah's KeySarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay – A haunting twist in the book has caused this story to stay with me years after reading it. In an attempt to save her brother from the Nazis during World War II, a little girl hides the boy in their special hiding place. Throughout the book we see her journey to get back to Paris and her brother.

These books are all so well written and I continue to look for other books by these talented authors!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThis one is absolutely incredible! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a story that must be shared and read over and over again. Hannah shares with us the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, young women living in France during WWII. Hannah has done a fantastic job here, the book has great character construction and many different dynamics running throughout.

The elder sister, Vianne, has always been the weak one. When her husband is drafted for the war she has no choice but to stay strong for her daughter. Through Vianne’s story we get a glimpse into the life of a mother trying to survive through German occupation, while starving, freezing, and hosting German officers in her home.

Isabelle, the younger sister, is wild and has few thoughts for the consequences that her actions will cause. All her life she has felt unloved, a motherless girl being pushed away from a father and sister who cannot cope with the loss, kicked out of every boarding school she’s attended. When she joins the resistance against Germany she finds herself right in the center of it all.

The Nightingale is a beautifully written story and so terribly sad. These women are so brave, and although they are fictional, they represent very real people. I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone, not only historical fiction lovers.