Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

          This is a very compelling book, although it is not entertaining exactly. It is a sad story and I actually cried through large segments of it. While it is very well written with vibrant characters I won’t be reading it again. It is just too depressing. Kristin Hannah shoots for an uplifting ending, but it not high enough to balance the lows of the middle of the book. It is heart wrenching and left me feeling sad and droopy for a couple of days after I’d finished it. If that’s what Hannah was shooting for, she hit it dead on.

          Home Front is the story of a family affected by the mother’s deployment to Iraq. Jolene is a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. The story begins on her 41st birthday. Her husband, trying to deal with the recent loss of his father, is burying himself in work, and forgets their plans for her birthday. As if this is not enough, once he finally comes home that night, he informs her he doesn’t lover her any more. The next day, still reeling from this announcement, she receives word that her National Guard unit is being deployed to Iraq.

          Her daughters are twelve and four years old. The twelve year old is hormonal and bitchy.  The four year old is confused and fussy. And her husband, Michael, continues to pull away as the deployment date approaches. As desperate as she is to remain home and try to keep her family from falling apart, Jolene departs for the war in the desert.

          War is a horrible thing. But Jolene tries to shield her family from the worst of it by sending upbeat emails and happy photos home. She tries to assure her family that she is well away from the fighting and perfectly safe. But she is not. There are no “front lines” in Iraq, and every breath she takes in country could be her last. The stress and exhaustion build.

          Several months into her tour, her helicopter is shot down; Her crew injured or killed. And she herself is badly injured. She wakes in a hospital to discover that she may be permanently disabled, and she will likely never fly again.

          Now she must return home, a changed woman. She must help her daughters adjust to her changed situation. She must decide if she can trust her heart to her husband again and try to put the pieces of their broken marriage back together.  And, she must find a way to put the trauma of her time at war in the past and get on with her life.

          It appears she manages to do all these things, but it is a struggle, and like any shattered thing her life will never be the same again, no matter how well the pieces are glued back together.

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