Three novels by Kristin Hannah: THe Nightingale, The Women, and The Great Alone

Kristin Hannah Wants to Make Us Cry … And We Love It!

Kristin Hannah is a former attorney from the Pacific Northwest who has been cranking out novels since 1991. To date she’s written over twenty novels, and many of them shoot straight to the top of the bestseller lists.

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Hannah was publishing novels for almost two decades before she had her first major hit. Firefly Lane came out in 2008, and the novel about a pair of best friends navigating life together kicked off a new chapter in the author’s career. Years later, her novel The Nightingale would become an international best seller and a multiple-award-winner. These two books have both been optioned for the screen, with Firefly Lane getting the Netflix series treatment in 2021.

Hannah is known for writing romance and historical fiction. Her stories are simple yet incredibly moving, and she has a way of pressing all of the sore spots in our subconscious with her delicate, probing prose. Read on to see which of Hannah’s many books we think are the best of the best.

10. Magic Hour (2006)

Cover of Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
(Ballantine Books)

This story takes place in the Olympic National Forest near the author’s home in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the story of two sisters—a child psychologist whose career suffered a terrible blow not long ago, and a former beauty queen turned police chief. Previously estranged, the sisters must reunite to solve the case of a six-year-old girl who wandered out of the forest all alone. The child does not speak, and people assume she was raised by wolves, but the sisters soon ascertain the truth.

This novel can feel a bit over-the-top dramatic at times, but it’s an incredibly well-told story that draws readers in from the first sentence.

9. On Mystic Lake (2000)

On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah
(Ballantine Books)

After losing her daughter to college and her husband to another woman, Annie Colwater flees to her hometown in Mystic, Washington to lick her wounds. There she reunites with Nick, her first true love, now a bitter widower with a young daughter, and they form a new little family unit. Just when things seem to be moving in a happier direction, everything changes in an instant and Annie is faced with an impossible choice.

8. Night Road (2012)

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

Hold on to your tear ducts, folks, because this book will make you feel all the things. It’s about a woman named Jude who has teenage twins, Mia and Zach, but their happy family life comes to an end when a girl named Lexi moves into town. The girl befriends Mia and starts dating Zach, who falls head over heels for her, and soon they’re spending their senior year partying it up.

One night, something terrible happens and a very bad decision is made. Jude, Mia, and Zach’s family life is ruined, Mia loses everything, and they are still paying the price years later. This is an emotional read that could change the way you think about family … and forgiveness.

7. The Women (2024)

The Women by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Press)

Hannah’s most recent offering takes us back in time to 1965, when a young nursing student named Frances “Frankie” McGrath decides to join the Army Nurse Corps to follow her brother, a soldier, to Vietnam. The novel takes the reader along for the tumultuous and often terrifying ride as Frankie makes friends and loses them, takes life-changing risks every day, and experiences all of the horrors of war.

The Women shows us what it was like to go into a warzone, but also what it was like to return to the United States in the midst of anti-Vietnam protests and anger.

6. The Four Winds (2021)

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Press)

The Four Wins is Hannah’s exploration of The Great Depression. It’s a modern Grapes of Wrath-style novel about a woman trying desperately to keep her family safe during a devastating drought and economic crisis. Elsa is faced with the decision to leave her life behind and head to California or tough it out and stay, risking starvation and death. It’s a riveting look at an oft-overlooked time period, and it instills a new appreciation for our grandparents and their “never throw anything out” ways.

5. Winter Garden (2011)

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

Nina and Meredith are sisters, but they’re incredibly different. One is a mother and homebody, the other is a world-traveling photojournalist. They are called back home to care for their sick father, forcing them to interact with their strict Russian mother, Anya. After their father issues an order from his deathbed, the sisters begin researching Anya’s life and discover there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, when they discover their mother’s darkest secret, their entire lives snap into focus and they see the truth about their own lives.

4. The Great Alone (2019)

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

Vietnam War veteran Ernt Allbright hasn’t been the same since he came home from war, so he packs up his wife Cora and their 13-year-old daughter Leni and moves the whole family to a remote town in Alaska. They encounter the harshness of the wilderness juxtaposed with the kindness of the local people, but as the long, dark winter draws near, Ernt becomes more and more disturbed. He becomes a monster inside the small cabin where the family lives, forcing Leni and Cora to fend for themselves in the cold, dark frontier.

3. Home Front (2013)

Home Front by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

Hannah explores another military family in this novel. Michael and Jolene’s marriage is fraying at the edges when Jolene gets deployed. Michael holds down the fort at home with their kids while Jolene fulfills her duties, hiding the horrors of war from her family in the sunny letters she sends. But Jolene returns from war with battle wounds, and not the kind that can be seen with the naked eye.

Home Front is a story about the impact of war on the human psyche, but it’s also a story about love, family, and honor.

2. Firefly Lane (2009)

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

Firefly Lane is the hugely popular story of childhood best friends Kate and Tully, who overcome the perils of high school and remain friends throughout their lives. Kate becomes a wife and mother, and Tully becomes a famous television star, raising issues about jealousy, devotion, and friendship as they navigate a 30-year relationship. After a major betrayal, Kate and Tully’s friendship faces its biggest challenge yet.

Firefly Lane was made into a Netflix series that aired for two seasons from 2021 to 2023.

1.The Nightingale (2017)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

The Nightingale is the book that made Kristin Hannah a major name in historical fiction. The book is about Vianne and Isabelle, two sisters living in a tiny village in France in 1939 who must cope with the Nazi invasion during World War II. Vianne’s home is overtaken by a German captain, and Isabelle joins the Resistance, but each fight their aggressors with every resource they have.

As the war rages on, Vianne and Isabelle are torn apart and pushed to their limits, and beyond. The final pages of this book are so poignant that the reader can feel utterly heartsick. You can tell yourself it’s just a book, but knowing that the story is based in real-life events makes the book pack an even bigger emotional punch.

A film adaptation of The Nightingale is currently in production after several years of delays. Real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning will star as Vianne and Isabelle. It’s expected to premiere sometime in 2025.

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Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.