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The Not-So-Great Alone

I’m extremely wary of modern, best-selling fiction authors. These authors publish books so frequently in such short periods of time you begin to wonder if he/she is doing any creative work at all or just telling the same basic story each time with slightly different characters and settings. I think I’m so critical of these types of authors and this type of literature because the genre and its writers appear to have fallen prey to the whole quantity over quality debate. I think too many authors today care more about numbers and dollar signs versus whether what they write is actually good or worthy of reading.

Literature which merits my approval is all about quality. It will be different, refreshing, unique, and free of clichés, formulas and predictability. It will transport me to intriguing times and places and introduce me to characters I wish were flesh and blood. It will leave me thinking, grappling and processing long after I’ve read the final page.

My reaction to having to read The Great Alone (DB90090) by best-selling author Kristin Hannah for a book club was less than enthusiastic, understandably. I was confident I would not enjoy this book but open to the idea I could be proved wrong. Upon completion, I was pleasantly surprised to find, contrary to my original thoughts that…just kidding. My expectations were realized as I found the book thoroughly underwhelming and at moments simply cringe-worthy.

The Great Alone is the story about a PTSD-ridden Vietnam veteran who moves his wife and daughter to the wilds of Alaska in hopes of finding a good life there. Things start looking up for the family at first but quickly deteriorate once the long, dark winter sets in and the father’s mental state begins to unravel. To me, the story was completely predictable. The characters were bland and uninteresting. There were too many clichés and weak, it’s-been-done-before love story plot lines. Maybe the biggest annoyance was the fact that Hannah packed so much drama and unfortunate events into the book that it became over-the-top ridiculous. I lost track of how many times I rolled my eyes and exclaimed “Are you kidding me!? Really? Another misfortune!?” Hannah employed all the proper gimmicks to keep the reader engaged and continuing on to the next chapter, but by the end all she accomplished was a forgettable story lacking substance and depth.

I know all authors are capable of both hits and misses in the books they publish, so I’m willing to give Kristin Hannah the benefit of the doubt and conclude she may have another book I will find satisfactory. She is most highly-praised for her book The Nightingale (DB81189). Someday soon I’ll give this other book a try and see if I sing a different tune when it comes time to critique it.

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