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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (384 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Camellia

All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost. . . .

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades 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 solider 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.

At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family, Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope.

Choices made whether right or wrong, good or bad, have to be lived with regardless of the cost. Home Front takes the reader into Jolene and Michael Zarkades’s struggles—struggles so true to life in our time in history. The depth of emotions that cuts to the quick soon had me looking for a box of tissues.

Deployed to Iraq, reservist Jolene, a Black Hawk pilot, leaves behind an angry, confused, self-centered twelve-year-old daughter and a vivacious little four-year-old daughter that just wants her mommy. She carries with her the words of her lawyer husband: “I don’t love you anymore”. Duty-bound to the army that gave her security and a sense of purpose and place at age eighteen when she was homeless and penniless, Jolene’s inner conflicts rage while outer conflicts prove vicious and life-threatening day after day and night after night.

Michael, a successful lawyer, works long hours and earns high fees and feels he is doing his part in the family. He has little concern about missing his daughters’ special events and parties. He knows very little about nurturing his children. With Jolene’s deployment, his life changes drastically. He loves Betsy and Lulu, but feels emasculated having to tend to their needs—like fixing meals, doing laundry, seeing to their school needs, shopping for groceries and on and on. Even with his mother’s super good help, Michael feels overwhelmed. He had always known Jolene was a woman of great strength but never realized all the things she did. Even worse, in the recesses of his mind, the words “I don’t love you anymore” nag at him. His wife has gone into harm’s way without his support, He and the girls let Jolene go away with full knowledge of their displeasure with her, while Tami Flynn, Jolene’s best friend and co-pilot had deployed with her husband and son’s resounding support and love that was reaffirmed at every opportunity.

Jolene, with no support other than that Tami can give her, serves and protects with skill and unrelenting determination as she tries to keep herself and her crew alive as they fly missions in a raging war zone.

The Black Hawk is shot down in enemy territory!

The action in Iraq and on the home front changes the dynamics of the Zarkades family as well as the lives of the secondary characters. Some of the secondary characters are unforgettable. One’s heart goes out to the trouble little twelve-year-old Betsy suffers when cruel things are said about her mother. The precious little Lulu, who plays invisible and staunchly declares that Betsy is not her boss, copes without her mommy in unique ways, but heartbreaking tears still flow at times. Mila, Michael’s mother, is a treasure. She is the one family member that always has and continues to support Jolene. She loves and understands her daughter-in-law. She loves her son dearly but sees his faults, yet is never failing in her support. She is a firm anchor for Betsy and Lulu. Many other characters, like Keith Keller, the young veteran with PTSD; Chris Cornflower, the eccentric psychiatrist—a former POW; the wise and caring physical therapist Conny help to shape the lives of the members of the Zarkades family

Kristin Hannah takes the reader on a vicarious journey with characters that seem to come alive. They struggle to find their way through territory mined with explosive issues like marriage not nurtured, parenting, heartbreak, grief, forgiveness, and just “plain-old” coping with whatever life brings. All through Home Front the themes of we do the best we can with what we have to work with and sometime all we can do is hold on are lifelines the characters hold on to as they work their way toward and find that deep-abiding love—love that survives in spite of all the emotional and physical trauma.

Home Front is an amazing story that truly touches the heart. It is a keeper.