*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Great Alone, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
I’ve been interested in the Vietnam War and it’s aftermath for a while now, so when I saw The Great Alone from Kristin Hannah, who is one of my favorite authors, I had to read it. I was actually able to listen to it on audiobook and it was fantastic, if you get that choice.
If you’ve read The Nightingale and loved it, you’ll love this book, too, although it’s very different. This novel centers on the relationship between a mother and a daughter. There is a love story and triumph in the midst of (alot) of tragedy, just like in The Nightingale, but this is a very different read centered on the mother/daughter struggle.
This book will leave you thinking and by the end of it you’ll be holding your loved ones a little tighter, which makes it a great choice for a book club. If it’s on your list, I’ve provided book club questions and a recipe for The Great Alone, so if you’re looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Great Alone:
When Ernt Allbright returns from the Vietnam War, he finds America volatile and changed. His family finds that he has changed as well. Needing a new start, the promise of the untouched Alaskan frontier lures them to homestead in the wilderness outside of Kaneq. As the darkness of Alaska’s winter settles in on their new home, Ernt’s mind deteriorates and his passionate, erratic love for his wife, Cora, threatens her and their daughter, Leni. Outside the house, the untamed wilderness threatens to push them to the brink, demanding they stay one step ahead to survive. As things converge, Cora’s and Leni’s delicate dance with nature and Ernt begins to unravel to an end none of them are prepared to meet.
For the The Great Alone recipe:
The Great Alone has been a hit among many book clubs, so if yours is reading it and you’re looking for food ideas for hosting your group, I’ve got a great recipe.
Several times, Leni remarks how the smell of baked bread makes her think of her mother. In reviewing the book for a recipe choice, I noticed that Cora was often making bread. In one scene, when Marge visits and tensions are high, Cora tells Leni to serve Marge a slice of cranberry bread. So, I knew I needed to make some cranberry bread.
This bread was delicious. Similar to more common banana nut bread, but with a twist. Several other recipes I saw included orange juice or orange peel. For my take, I chose to leave it out. I thought the cinnamon and cranberries stood front and center this way. And, Leni was right, it did remind me of home.
So, if you are looking for food ideas for The Great Alone, look no further!
“Sometimes, berry-picking or making bread, or even the smell of coffee would make her cry. “-The Great Alone, Chapter 31
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 cup cranberries*
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups flour
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 6 tbsp butter melted and cooled to room temperature
- ½ cup walnuts optional
- *If using dried cranberries, soak the cranberries for 1 hour in bowl with the milk, vanilla, and egg. If using fresh cranberries, skip this step.
- Mix the milk, vanilla, egg, and cranberries from preparation step with the melted and cooled butter in a large bowl.
- Next, mix all dry ingredients together in a separate bowl: flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt.
- Slowly mix the dry ingredients from step 2 into the milk, vanilla, egg, cranberry, and butter mixture until incorporated.
- If desired, fold in walnuts.
- Use a bit of softened butter to butter a loaf pan. Then, dust with a small amount of flour.
- Pour the bread mixture into the buttered and floured loaf pan.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 20 mins**. Then, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 45 minutes.
- Test for doneness with a toothpick.
The Great Alone Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Leni’s mother, Cora, continues to stay with her father, Ernt, despite his abuse, even given the fact that she has an escape route through her parents. Why do you think that she stay with him? Is it passion, pride, love, or something else?
- Ernt is suffering with PTSD from the Vietnam war. In the first half of the book, Leni believes he could be a good man despite his actions. However, towards the end of the book she has made up her own mind when she realizes that his actions speak louder than her mother’s words. At what point do you think that Leni has this change of heart? Was there a particular instance of his abuse that you think was the turning point for her?
- In what ways do you think that the setting of Alaska both intensified the darkness of the book and the hopefulness of the book?
- There are a lot of helpers in the book for Leni and Cora, including Marge and Matthew. Do you think that Tom Walker was a helper or a harmer, ultimately? What about Mad Earl?
- Ernt crosses the line when he directs his anger towards Leni, but do you think that Cora would have had the strength to leave Ernt without Marge’s continual encouragement? Why or why not?
- Ernt’s paranoia permeates the book. In what ways do you think that this rubs off on Leni and Cora? Were there instances where you saw a distinct change in character? In what ways do you think the paranoia rubs off on the reader and, through the experience of the characters, heightens the tension as you read?
- Kristin Hannah likes to take readers on an emotional roller coaster ride. How did you feel about the ending of the book BEFORE Leni returned to Alaska? How did you feel about the book AFTER Leni returned? Were you satisfied with the ending?
- Leni takes several risks to have time alone with Matthew. Did you think that her choices were wise and worth it since Matthew is one of the only good things in her life, perhaps the only good thing? Or, did you think she was being completely foolish and reckless?
- The 1970s were a turbulent time in America. How do you think that the events of that decade mirror the events we see in the world today? For example: Vietnam, bombings, kidnappings, etc. Has anything changed?
- Were you surprised that Leni agreed to help Cora dispose of the body despite the implications? Do you think she really understood the consequences or was this one last time that Cora took advantage of Leni’s love for her?
Have you read The Great Alone? What was your favorite part of the book? What questions popped into your mind while reading?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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