Sunday, February 12, 2012
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: January 31, 2012
In her latest book, Kristin Hannah takes on the topics of both marriage and war and the dynamics of a marriage affected by war. Home Front was what I've come to expect from Hannah, another great story with characters I care about and a story that gives me a good cry.
Michael and Jolene Zarkades have been married for 13 years, and their marriage is in a rut. They met when they were young and were both at a time in their lives when the other fit what they needed and were looking for at the time. But as it often happens, they've grown up and changed in many ways, and their marriage has started to stall. Jolene has been in the National Guard reserves, and just when her marriage starts to really crumble, she is deployed to Iraq. As unimaginably difficult as that is, it's worsened by the fact that Michael lacks any support for his wife. Instead, he feels anger toward her for leaving the family for him to take care of and partaking in a war that he doesn't even believe in. Jolene, on the other hand, does her best to protect her family by sheltering them from the truths of her situation, even telling them, falsely, that female pilots are not allowed in combat. Then a tragedy happens, and the entire family has to learn to cope with the scary aftermath and adjust to the new dynamics in their family. There's also a minor secondary storyline regarding a client that Michael, a defense attorney, is working to defend. His storyline supplements the main one regarding Michael and Jolene's marriage.
What I liked about Home Front was that it took an important topic of military families coping with the effects of a family member being a soldier and puts the unique spin of having the matriarch of the family the one who is in the military. It's unique because it's a perspective we don't often hear about, though there are many women in our military. We see how having the wife and mother of the family at war has a tremendous impact on the family. Michael and Jolene have two daughters, 12 and 4, neither who can truly understand Jolene either. Her 12-year-old has an especially difficult time with it and acts out angrily, especially toward her mother. And we also see the turmoil that Jolene deals with as she balances her desire to serve her country with the terrible feelings of having to be separated from her children.
The thing that most got me in Home Front, though, was the portrayal of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Hannah did an excellent job of portraying the nuances of the disorder and the subsequent dynamics it produces in the family. It's a mental health issue that is frustrating from both sides but devastating for the person affected who is never at peace; it's devastating for the family members who have essentially lost the person they knew. As a reader, it was frustrating to see the wall that was built by the affected person and their inability to connect in any way with other people, even family members. It was so saddening to see the continued hurt in the loved ones who yearned for the person they loved. I thought this was realistically done and also really exemplified the tremendous need we have for more resources and services to be available to those suffering returning from war, specifically those suffering from PTSD.
Home Front gave me a close look at a family affected by war. I truly admire the bravery, courage, and strength of the those in our military as well as their families. It's a role I don't know if I could fulfill sanely. I do wonder, though, if those who have loved ones in the military and/or currently deployed would be able to handle this story. If it were me, I wouldn't want to read about the things Jolene knows and thinks about in Home Front. While I'd still consider a few others of Hannah's books my favorites, I enjoyed this one and would continue to recommend any of her books.
**My sister and I will be attending Kristin Hannah's book signing later this week!! I will write a post about that soon!**