Book Review: Home Front

5 Feb

home_frontLike many couples, Michael and Jolene 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 soldier 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.

kristin-hannah2From Kristin Hannah’s website —

I was born in September 1960 in Southern California and grew up at the beach, making sand castles and playing in the surf.   When I was eight years old, my father drove us to Western Washington where we called home.

After working in a trendy advertising agency, I decided to go to law school. “But you’re going to be a writer” are the prophetic words I will never forget from my mother. I was in my third-and final-year of law school and my mom was in the hospital, facing the end of her long battle with cancer. I was shocked to discover that she believed I would become a writer. For the next few months, we collaborated on the worst, most clichéd historical romance ever written.

After my mom’s death, I packed up all those bits and pieces of paper we’d collected and put them in a box in the back of my closet. I got married and continued practicing law.

Then I found out I was pregnant, but was on bed rest for five months. By the time I’d read every book in the house and started asking my husband for cereal boxes to read, I knew I was a goner. That’s when my darling husband reminded me of the book I’d started with my mom. I pulled out the boxes of research material, dusted them off and began writing. By the time my son was born, I’d finished a first draft and found an obsession.

The rejections came, of course, and they stung for a while, but each one really just spurred me to try harder, work more. In 1990, I got “the call,” and in that moment, I went from a young mother with a cooler-than-average hobby to a professional writer, and I’ve never looked back. In all the years between then and now, I have never lost my love of, or my enthusiasm for, telling stories. I am truly blessed to be a wife, a mother, and a writer.

My Impressions:

Home Front by bestselling author Kristin Hannah is By The Book’s February selection. We won 12 hardback copies in a contest sponsored by ReadingGroupGuides.com. This was a great surprise since we won 12 copies of Night Road last year. We will be discussing Home Front at our Friday night meeting this week and it should prove to be quite the discussion. We have two women in our group who have been active duty military, a mother of an Army private and several members whose husbands have served. If you have read Home Front and have  thoughts to share, please leave me a comment.

Michael and Jolene seemingly have the perfect marriage. Married for over 12 years they have weathered the storms of infertility and parent loss. But the facade covers insecurities, grief, and resentment. To add to the problems, Michael announces to Jolene that he doesn’t love her any more. The next day Jolene gets orders to deploy to Iraq. Jolene is an Army National Guard helicopter pilot dedicated to her job and country. Michael is a defense attorney who is against the war specifically and the military generally. He has no clue of the culture to which his wife belongs and no desire to learn more. Add to the mix a seriously bratty 12 year old daughter and a 4 year old preschooler and you get a family drama that will tug at your heart.

Home Front is very well-written. The characters seem very real in their reactions to the conflict in their home as well as the demands of job and duty. Michael and Jolene undergo tremendous growth in their personal understanding and in their marriage. Hannah doesn’t sugar coat the cost of military service and is very supportive of our military. She puts a very human face on the images we see on TV. I live in a community with a huge military presence. I have friends and co-workers whose spouses have been deployed for months and years. I found Hannah’s depiction very realistic.

But . . . . Okay, I did have a few problems with the book. First of all, Home Front was not written for the Christian market. If you have a problem with the use of profanity (I do), then you may want to pass on this book. Profanity is used throughout the novel. But at the end that is not the biggest problem I have. In fact my problem is not really the fault of the author. Home Front is a secular novel. The brief mentions of God include a short funeral scene and the frequent use of His name as oaths. The message of the book is powerful, but left me feeling empty. I was saddened by the lack of real hope in the lives of the characters. This was not what the author was aiming for, I am sure, but was definitely what I came away with. Home Front is a book that more CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) authors should be writing. The lack of books like this is probably the reason many complain about the state of Christian fiction.

So should you read Home Front? I think so, even with the offensive language. As I said, I anticipate some great discussion on Friday. That, in the end, is what we aim for when choosing books for our group.

Recommended.

To purchase, click the image below.

(Thank you to ReadingGroupGuides and the publisher for my copy of Home Front. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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