Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Home Front

Summary: In her bestselling novels Kristin Hannah has plumbed the depths of friendship, the loyalty of sisters, and the secrets mothers keep. Now, in her most emotionally powerful story yet, she explores the intimate landscape of a troubled marriage with this provocative and timely portrait of a husband and wife, in love and at war.

All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost. . . .

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life---children, careers, bills, chores---even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a solider she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own---for everything that matters to his family.

At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family, Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope.  -- St. Martin's Press 

Awhile back, I read a Kristin Hannah book called  WINTER GARDEN which I enjoyed very much -- you can read my review here. It was the first book that I had read by this author and I promised myself that I'd make an effort to read more of her novels. I appreciated the characters and the story, and I admit that it did tug on my heartstrings a bit. So it's now a year later, and Ms. Hannah's latest novel HOME FRONT is available. Based on the book's description, I had a feeling that I'd have a similar reaction to this book.

HOME FRONT tells the story of Jolene, a wife and mother of two who is suddenly deployed to Iraq to serve as a helicopter pilot. Jolene had a tough childhood and her devotion to the military was admirable. When Jolene joined the military at 18 years old, she had finally found a sense of belonging and her unit served as her "adopted" family. On one hand, she was anxious to serve her country because she felt an incredible sense of duty; however, on the other hand she had to leave her family for an entire year to face the front lines in a horrific war.

I'm sure it is a very difficult time for any family when a member has to leave to fight in a war, but Jolene's situation was especially dire. First of all, she was the mother of two daughters -- twelve and four years old -- and she was terrified that she might never return to see them grow up. Both girls desperately needed their mother, and it broke Jolene's heart to have to leave her tween daughter who would certainly be experiencing her fair share of change in the twelve months ahead. In addition, Jolene's husband Michael was dealing with some baggage of his own, namely the death of his father; and he wasn't exactly supportive of Jolene's obligation to the military. He was a very hands-off type of father and had no idea how much was involved in taking care of his two daughters. And to make things worse, Jolene and Michael's marriage was on the brink of disaster in the days prior to Jolene's deployment.

I was tempted to write another paragraph telling you what happens in the rest of the book (which is really the majority of the story); however, I think it's better if you experience Jolene and Michael's experiences without any teasers. Suffice it to say, that war is horrific and the damage it can do to both soldiers and their families is heartbreaking.

Ir probably goes without saying that HOME FRONT deals with some very heavy issues, and it wasn't exactly an easy read for me. That's not to say that Ms. Hannah's writing wasn't very good, because it was. I just had a hard time reading about the pain that this family experienced. As much as this story broke my heart (and made me tear up in quite a few places), I did appreciate how it explored so many universal themes of life including marriage, love, friendship, parenting, duty, and loss. And while the majority of us never have to experience what Jolene's family went though, I still think most readers will be able to relate to parts of these characters' lives.

HOME FRONT would make an excellent book club pick. There truly is so much to explore with the characters' relationships as well as their personal journeys. There is a reading guide available which touches upon many of the themes I mentioned earlier including marriage, love, and friendship. In addition to discussing the effects of war on families, you might also want to explore loss, grief, and healing.

As you can hopefully see, the messages in HOME FRONT are important ones, and I loved that this novel made me think about all of the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make for the rest of us.

Thanks to AuthorsOnTheWeb for providing a review copy of this novel.

Check out the video with helicopter pilot and mother, Warrant Officer Teresa Burgess, who was an advisor to Ms. Hannah for HOME FRONT:


Serena said...

Would you believe I still have not read Winter Garden or any other book by this author...I really need to step up my game...everyone seems to love her books.

bermudaonion said...

My sister loves Hannah's work and says her books are always emotional. This sounds like another winner.

Kay said...

I've found that Kristin Hannah's books are indeed always emotional and deal with some very interesting themes. I've liked them very much. NIGHT ROAD was one I read last year that touched my heart. I listened to this interview last week and thought it was good. Looking forward to reading HOME FRONT.

Amelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amelia said...

Let me try that again...
I have a system with Kristin Hannah books. My friend reads them frist, if she cries I know I will sob and unless the story really speaks to me, I have to avoid it. If my friend doesn't cry but still feels the emotion, I know I'll cry and can read the book. Once she reads Home Front I'll know if I'll sob or cry when reading it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've never read anything from this author, I guess by design. A friend of mine swears by her, but others have described the author as a female version of Nicholas Sparks. So that is why I hesitate. Maybe it isn't fair. Her plots do sound full of drama.

Beth F said...

This is on my list -- glad to know it's a winner.