Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Julie's 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. ~amazon.com  

Review: Home Front is the first book that deal with the war in Iraq that I've met. What's even more significant in my opinion is that it deals with women in combat. Ms. Hannah handles this issue with care. She sends a message without being preachy about it: Support our troops even if you don't agree with/or support the war.

Jolene lost her parents when she was 17 and instead of becoming bitter and hostile, she chose to believe that you could chose happiness. As we are introduced to Jolene she is married to Michael and mother to their two girls, Betsey and Lulu. She works as a helicopter pilot for the National Guard where she can put her family first and because she loves it. It is the thing that saved her after her parents died. She is fiercely independent and optimistic. Her husband Michael, doesn't start out looking so good to us readers. He's oblivious to his home life, he's a workaholic, depressed, unhappy, selfish and most of all complacent. He takes his wife for granted and then proceeds to think that he's not in love with her anymore. Of course, this happens right before she is deployed to Iraq.

Jolene is deployed and sent to Iraq to do rescue missions. As you can imagine things do not turn out well for her while she's over there. When she comes home she's different. Long gone is the optimistic and happy Jolene. Instead she's angry, depressed, unable to express her needs/wants and has to learn how to rely on others. Michael has learned to put family first, regrets his prior decisions and fights for his wife and for her love. It was stunning to see such a transformation in someone that wasn't completely unrealistic.  It wasn't overnight and it definitely wasn't easy for him. He took Jolene for granted and disregarded her service as insignificant to him. Her being deployed taught him that it wasn't and showed him how to be proud of her service.

Part of what helps Michael begin to understand is his case defending a young Iraqi war veteran who killed his wife. He begins to understand that he should be proud of her and her job regardless of how he feels about the war. It is through Keith and his therapist that he can start to understand what his wife dealt with over in Iraq and try to help her through the fear and pain.

What Ms. Hannah does extremely well is make this personal for the reader. It is heartbreakingly real, sad and hopeful. What she does is expose our government for the carelessness in handling soldiers with PTSD. How sweeping it under the rug doesn't help anyone and does more damage. She also shows us how the Armed Services prepare our soldiers for war and their families but they perhaps do not do such a good job about preparing them for the changes when they return home. These occur even if they haven't been hurt. The dynamics of a family change when someone is gone for an extended period of time. How do you get back to normal when normal isn't what it was before?

I thought the ending was beautiful and I closed the book feeling hopeful for the Zarkades family. I'm only sorry I've had this book for almost a year and just now cracked it up. On the other hand, I'm glad that it's one of my final books for 2012. It would make an excellent book club choice since you could examine it every way from Sunday. Home Front isn't a book to be missed.

Final Take: 4.75/5



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