Title: Home Front
Author: Kristin Hannah
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: SheKnows Book Club
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Jolene Zarkades found refuge with the military after a difficult childhood. Now, a married woman raising two children, she still flies helicopters for the National Guard. But things at home aren’t quite as simple as they are behind a helicopter’s controls. Her daughter, Betsy, is on the cusp of adolescent angst, angry and difficult all the time. The rift between Jolene and her husband, Michael, has been widening, to the point where Jolene wonders if the damage is irreparable. All these problems come together when Jolene’s unit is tapped for Iraq duty. Jolene must leave her family behind and face danger, while Michael tries to cope with being a single father to two daughters he barely knows.
Home Front is a look at a life on the front lines, both at home and in Iraq. Jolene is a dedicated, hardworking mother. She loves her family, and above all, she wants to care for and nurture them. But her National Guard unit members are like her family as well, and Jolene refuses to give them up. From the beginning, it’s clear that Michael resents Jolene for this. He has never tried to understand her connection to the Guard; instead, he tolerates it. But when her commitment to service threatens to tear their family apart physically, Michael allows his resentment to come to the surface and blames his wife for her duty.
This is a complex book that deals with many difficult issues. While Jolene’s family always comes first, she cannot step back from her Guard commitment just because things have gotten difficult. However, her family cannot see that. Instead of being proud of her service, each is resentful in their own way. While understandable, it’s incredibly difficult for Jolene, who is determined to protect her family from what she is seeing in Iraq. But as the novel progresses, and Michael begins to understand what Jolene’s service really means, he undergoes a beautiful transformation. Each of the characters in this novel is growing and changing; I was surprised many times by how much they developed over the course of the book, and how my feelings towards them could change.
Hannah portrays the impact of war on one American family in Home Front, and she does an amazing job of it. This is a subject not often addressed in women’s fiction, and I’m glad she chose to make it the central point of her novel. There are difficult truths and deep thoughts that abound through the novel, yet Hannah never makes it too heavy. In the end, she always comes back to the heart at the center of the book – love and family.
Home Front is a powerful, moving novel that gripped me from beginning to end. Hannah’s characters, while sometimes very frustrating, are incredibly realistic. Like any person, they make mistakes, but grow and change from them. Hannah’s commentary about the lack of resources for soldiers returning home from war and trying to adjust back into an old life is pitch perfect and timely. It’s an amazing read, and would make a perfect book club pick.