I'm usually a repeat offender when I find an author I like. But what happens if I didn't like an author's book? Do I go back for more? A couple of years ago, I read True Colors by Kristin Hannah. I found it to be a little on the sappy side. It just wasn't for me. Last year, I won a copy of her novel Night Road. I hate to admit it, but I have yet to finish it. I started Night Road, but had to put it aside for other books. I hear that one is very good.
When the opportunity arose to read her latest book, Home Front, I decided to go for it. From what I know of her books, they tend to deal with the bond between sisters and the secrets they keep. Home Front is very far away from that. It deals with a failing marriage, the bond with their children, and a mother suddenly called off to war.
After a troubled childhood Jolene Zarkades found her calling in the National Guard as a helicopter pilot. She has a sense of pride. She has a sense of duty. Feelings that she has never been able to make her husband, Michael, understand. He doesn't want to understand. Following the death of his father Michael buries himself working at his law firm. Family is secondary to Michael. Missed birthdays, missed dinners, and a lack of affection just go over Michael's head. Family is paramount to Jolene, despite Michael's absence. Her daughters, Betsy and Lulu, mean everything to Jolene. Making sure they get breakfast every morning, making sure they get to school on time, and being involved in their lives are important to Jolene. Take away the military career, Jolene's life sounds like a lot of marriages.
The only person Jolene can vent to is her best friend Tami. Both of them are in the guard. Both know what it's like. Except Tami has a spouse who supports her career. It just seemed so cruel for Michael not to support his wife. He knew who and what Jolene did before they got married. When Jolene and Tami are deployed to Iraq, Michael still refuses to support Jolene. She's a wife and a mother, her place should be with the children while he gets to continue his career. It doesn't help that Michael tells Jolene he is no longer in love with her. Wouldn't it have been nicer to send her off to war with love?
Michael has some help from his mother, but he has to both mom and dad in Jolene's absence. With a brooding almost teenager in Betsy and a bubbly five-year-old in Lulu, Michael has a tough job. Jolene always solved the problems. Michael has no idea how to be like her. Meanwhile, Jolene is thrust into several combat situations, yet she tries to sugarcoat it in letters and pictures to her family. How can she truly let them know what is going on in Iraq? She can't let them lose hope in her return.
It takes a new case, involving a soldier accused of murder, to make Michael see the light. But is it too late? When Jolene comes back from Iraq she is different physically and emotionally. Overcoming her physical limitations are somewhat easier than dealing with her emotions. Physical wounds can be patched up and treated with medicine. It's much harder to rid herself of the emotional scars. Can she back to normal after everything she endured in Iraq? Is Michael with her out of pity or lover? How can she trust him again?
There is so much good stuff in this book. It is very timely as well. It calls into question the services or lack there of for soldiers returning from war. We salute them with medals and other forms of recognition, but what about their emotional health? This book feels very real and well-researched. You will come away with a greater understanding of military families and a sense of compassion for them.
Rating: O.M.G. !!
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) at the request of Wunderkind PR.