Home Front by Kristin Hannah – Book Review

Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Things have been difficult between Michael and Joleen Zarkades since the death of Michael’s father some months ago. Joleen knows what it is like to lose her parents, even before they died when she was 17 they were essentially gone, caught up in their own world with little time or energy left for Joleen. In her strength, Joleen chose to be happy, but that exhortation does not work for Michael, and her constant platitudes after his father’s death has left him feeling disconnected from and even resentful of her. For her part, Joleen is frustrated with Michael’s apparent lack of interest in her and their daughters. Things finally come to a  head when Michael tells Joleen that he is no longer in love with her. Before the Zarkades can decide to either work things out or end their relationship, Joleen receives word that her National Guard Unit – she is a former army helicopter pilot – is shipping out to Iraq for a year-long tour of duty.

Oh, the sobbing involved in reading Home Front! Hannah has crafted a story that is rife with emotion, and some particularly painful emotion at that: a marriage on the verge of breaking up, a mother leaving her children, children confused and scared by their mother going to war, a father trying to learn how to be a true parent to his daughters, and a woman facing the uncertainty of war. Some may find this surfeit of sadness to be emotionally manipulative – and this is somewhat hard to argue, as I cried intermittently for the first half and sobbed silently for essentially the entire second half. Still, I would tend to say that this is simply a story of a troubled marriage whose crisis point comes at a particularly inopportune time, combined with the real emotions of a family sending a parent to war. Hannah brings Michael and Joleen to life to an extent that their pain is incredibly easy to empathize with, and thus very emotional for the reader. What is particularly impressive about this is the fact that Hannah has created a story in which it is equally easy to commiserate with both Joleen and Michael.

This was my first experience with Hannah and it was a good, if draining, one. This is not a book to read in public (or perhaps in front of small children, Daniel was somewhat distressed about my tears), but it is definitely a book worth reading. Recommended.

If you have read Home Front, come and join the SheKnows Book Club discussion with author Kristin Hannah on Thursday, March 1 from 8 to 11 pm Eastern/5 to 8 pm Pacific.

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