Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282
The Great Alone is a powerful story that follows the life of a young girl as her family moves to rural Alaska for a new start. The main character is Lenora Allbright (Leni), a thirteen-year-old girl caught in her parents’ tumultuous yet passionate relationship. Her father, Ernt Allbright, is a former prisoner of war from Vietnam. The war changes him into a violent man who makes the rash decision to move to Alaska and live off the grid in an old war buddy’s cabin after losing another job. Leni’s mother, Cora Allbright, loves Ernt and is willing to follow him anywhere and do what he says. Cora is often the victim of Ernt’s abusive tendencies, but she continues to love him, blames the war for his actions, and follows him into the unknown.
The novel centers on the Allbright family, especially Leni, but there are additional characters with important roles. When they first move to Alaska, Large Marge is there to help them prepare for winter. Several times throughout the story, she helps Leni and Cora when needed. Tom Walker is one of the wealthiest people in the area, and despite him also helping the Allbrights and being an all-around good guy, Ernt hates him. The fact that Leni falls in love with Tom’s son, Matthew, makes Ernt hate him even more. Ernt starts paling around with Mad Earl, whom most people in the area don’t get along with. They drink heavily together, which pushes Ernt into a volatile state.
In addition to these characters who have a major impact on the novel, there are also minor characters, such as Matthew’s sister and Cora’s parents.