Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: Home Front by Kristin Hannah


By: Kristin Hannah

Published January 31, 2012


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.

Ever since I read FIREFLY LANE, I have been in love with Kristin Hannah's writing.  In the novels she has written and I have read since, I have become more and more entranced in her writing.  I noticed a big change when I read WINTER GARDEN and then NIGHT ROAD. Both stories were so emotionally gripping they ripped at my heart and pulled me through the novel gasping for air.  Then HOME FRONT came out and I purchased it immediately.  Since then I have heard wonderful accolades and read many reviews about how powerful the story is.  But reviews and book club reads have kept me from reading it...until now.

I have never had a novel grip me so emotionally as HOME FRONT did.  By chapter five, I was sobbing so much, my children were worried about me and I had to stop reading because I couldn't see the words anymore. I am not the only reader to feel this way.  Many friends that have read it felt the same way.  Hannah has found a way to write the words exactly how they would be felt and those of us reading can feel like the characters are our friends and family.  We are hurting right along side of them.  This story will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

With no one close to me going off to war, I learned much about military families and their way of life.  I have a new appreciation for those who go off to war and for those who have been left behind at home.  Even though you see and hear about the families, the daily struggles are often forgotten.  In this story, the mother is the one to go off to war.  Not just any mom, but a mom who runs the household, controls the schedule, and is the main caretaker in the family.  Jolene lives and breathes her military career, but her family is what means the most to her.  Jolene gets the kids ready for school, drops them off, goes off to her job, picks the kids up and handles all the night time care while her husband is gone all day running his law firm.  So, when Jolene has to go off to war, Michael has no idea what he is in for.  In the book where Jolene and her friend Tami are talking about leaving for war, Jolene asks, "How have men done it all these years, gone off to war and left their kids behind?" Tami answers, "They had wives."  That is what makes this story different and one to be read.

Without giving away too much of the story, another part of the novel stuck with me, "There was so much training before one goes to war, and so little for one's return."  Unfortunately, I am hearing more and more of how true this is.  There aren't enough resources to assist those to transition back into civilian life.  After just reading UNBROKEN, I have come to realize our government has not come far enough since WWII in ways to help soldiers deal with the effects of PTSD and the horrors of war.

There is so much I could say about his novel, but I don't want to spoil one bit of the story for anyone who has yet to read it.  This would make an excellent book club pick.  The dynamics of family, friendships, marriage, war, and grief will make for a lively discussion.  This has definitely been my favorite book of the year.

Finally, I want to leave you with one last piece from the story that reminded me to live my life truthfully and not hide behind my intentions.

"It's not intentions that matter. It's actions. We are what we do and say, not what we intend to."

Check out Kristin Hannah on her website,  For an interview Kristin Hannah had with Teresa Burgess, a real life military mom, watch this video:

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