The US has gained notoriety for its poor treatment of its veterans. Despite the sacrifice that they make for their countries, many veterans are struggling with mental health problems and poverty. Through her book, The Great Alone, Hannah recognizes the efforts of the brave soldiers who have returned to a country that has forgotten them. Through the experiences of Ernt Allbright, Hannah manages to offer a disturbing, unedited and raw look into the lives of veterans who have served in such conflicts as the Vietnam War.
How veterans struggle to find employment is among the main themes that The Great Alone explores. As they engage with the book, readers are driven to sympathize with veterans. Hannah describes how despite his best efforts, Allbright is unable to hold on to a job. It is indeed sad that Allbright’s hardships are not unique. Many other veterans are unable to secure employment because the economy does not need the type of skills that they possess. There is no doubt that by placing Allbright at the center of her book, Hannah aimed to challenge the US to be more responsive to the plight of veterans.
The fact that the difficult conditions that they encounter push veterans to make extreme and drastic decisions is yet another important that Hannah explores in The Great Alone. For instance, in the book, Hannah narrates that faced with hostile and unbearable conditions, Allbright made the difficult yet wrong decision to move his family to Alaska. This decision is clearly intended to serve as a representation of the difficulties that veterans grapple with. The nation pushes them to the fringes, thereby forcing them to make desperate and ill decisions.
In addition to highlighting the personal struggles that veterans deal with, Hannah’s the Great Alone also examines how the lives of the veterans’ children are impacted by these struggles. According to Hannah, the children bear the brunt of the challenges that veterans face. These challenges deny the children the innocence and joy of childhood as evidenced by Leni, Allbright’s 13-year old daughter who witnesses his father’s descent into darkness. It can be argued that by including Leni in the book, Hannah aimed to focus America’s attention on the far-reaching impacts of the poor treatment of veterans.
The fact that veterans are usually too fragile to sustain healthy personal relationships is yet another issue that Hannah allows her readers to understand by focusing on the life of Allbright. In her description of Allbright, Hannah notes that his relationship with Cora, his wife is troubled and stormy. Allbright’s inability to maintain a healthy relationship helps to underscore the damage that war causes to America’s veterans. The nation clearly owes its veterans a duty of care as they have served their country well and should therefore be treated better.
Hannah demonstrates her mastery of symbolism in The Great Alone. For example, she uses Alaska as a symbol of the temporary and fleeting relief that few veterans have been able to achieve. Even after fleeing to Alaska, Allbright is confronted with the same horrors from which he was attempting to escape. The inability of Alaska to serve as a permanent refuge mirrors America’s failure to develop permanent and lasting solutions to the many problems that veterans face.
It is well understood that a large proportion of America’s veterans struggle with such mental illnesses as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such disorders are explored in great detail and tremendous sobriety in The Great Alone. For example, Hannah narrates how while in Alaska, Allbright’s mental health deteriorates, worrying his wife and daughter. The decline in his health points to the lasting and devastating effects of military service. By examining Allbright’s mental wellness, Hannah clearly intended to indict the US for its frustrating and unacceptable failure to take the mental health of veterans seriously.
Overall, The Great Alone is well-written, insightful and sheds light on various contemporary issues that the US faces today. However, there are some issues that could limit the appeal of this book. Among these issues is its depressingly negative tone. Readers will be hard pressed to find moments that bring them joy. The book is littered with sad and sorry moments. It must be that Hannah sought to present the lives of veterans as they truly are: sad and sorry. However, the book would have been enriched with even a few mentions of beautiful moments in Allbright’s life.
The overarching message that The Great Alone conveys is that many veterans lead desperate and sorry lives. However, this book also highlights the remarkable resilience and undying spirits of veterans. Even when faced with the most trying challenges, Allbright is able to seek solutions. His move to Alaska points to his wish to find relief from his troubles. It is indeed unfortunate that he does not receive much help. His resilience and positivity should encourage other veterans to remain steadfast and unwavering in their pursuit of joy and peace.
As noted above, The Great Alone highlights the resourcefulness and remarkable resilience of America’s veterans. Additionally, this book also sheds light on how American communities can help to ease the suffering of veterans. For example, Allbright notes that during their stay in Alaska, Allbright and his family received some support from their community. This support shows that instead of waiting for government action, Americans should be proactive and help veterans who are in deep crises and struggling to hold onto their sanity.
Hannah has won numerous awards and accolades for her various works. The fact that she is celebrated is not surprising. She is among the few authors who are bold enough to issue an indictment for America’s reluctance and outright failures to care for its veterans. Her work should inspire other creators to give a voice to veterans whose suffering often goes unreported. The Great Alone will maintain its relevance since some of the themes that it explores are timeless. Additionally, the book will resonate with a large audience.
As is the case with other books, The Great Alone will not satisfy all readers. In fact, there are many readers who will find its negativity and focus on sad experiences to be off-putting. However, for a majority of readers, the book will be refreshing and engaging. When exploring the book, these readers will find it to be incredibly eye-opening as it lays bare the struggles of veterans. These are the type of readers who are courageous enough to confront issues that others find too uncomfortable and depressing.
It is disappointing that the US continues to fail its veterans. In fact, the veterans should feel insulted for placing their lives at risk in defense of a nation that has abandoned them. Relying on the life and experiences of Allbright, Hannah expresses the frustration of many veterans who feel ignored, unvalued, and abandoned. The book is particularly timely as it sheds light on an issue at the heart of the American identity. If the US cannot take care of veterans, one is forced to wonder how the nation can protect other groups. For readers looking for a thrilling, engaging and interactive book, none will leave them more pleased than The Great Alone.