Jolene and Michael are going through a bad patch in their marriage. To make matters even worse, Jolene receives a letter that she is being deployed. Michael, an attorney who does not support the war in the first place is left home with their two children. Home Front is the story of one military family and how they cope when one of their family members goes off to war. It was a real eye opened for me and a thought-provoking book. A few of the words used to describe it……emotional, timely and gripping.
The books’ main character is Jolene Zarkades. She is an only child of parents with alcohol and marital issues who die in an alcohol-fueled car accident leaving Jolene to fend for herself at the age of 17. Jolene joins the Army, becomes a helicopter pilot, and meets Tami who will become her best friend for life. The novel begins in the twelfth year of Jolene’ marriage as Jolene is turning 41. Jolene has married Michael, a defense attorney, whom she met right after her parents death and then reconnected with after returning from the Army. They have 2 daughters, Betsy and Lulu. The marriage is in a rough spot with Michael spending all his time at work. Jolene is in the Army National Guards, something she is very proud of, takes her commitment seriously, and shares this passion with Tami who is also a helicopter pilot in the same unit and is living next door with her husband and son.
Michael does not support the war in Iraq and does not socialize with his wife’s friends or National Guard unit. He has distanced himself from the family, but is also trying to cope with the recent death of his father. He seems unable to talk to Jolene about this and seems to
be experiencing a mid-life- is this all there is crisis. Jolene is trying to restart their relationship when her Guard unit (of which she
is Chief) gets called to active duty in Afghanistan. The ensuing chapters deal with aspects of war : from getting ready to leave families, to the physical conditions of living and fighting in third world conditions, to injury and death. Not everyone in Jolene’s unit makes it home, and the ones that do are forever changed. On the “home front”, Michael has to become a single parent, the daughters have their own issues with Betsy displaying most every negative middle school girl characteristic imaginable, and the fortunate, nurturing presence of Michaels’ mother Mila and the entertaining physical therapist, Conny.
The members of our bookclub have read other Kristin Hannah novels, and this is similar in nature. While not “high literature”, we found this to be an easy read that allowed us to see aspects of war and the armed services that we might not have previously considered. Many bookclub members shared personal stories of their family involvement with the military in this and other wars. While we found some of the character development to be lacking or formulaic,(except for Lulu), and had issues with the way certain things came together (Michaels’ convenient legal case of a vet with PTSD, and the therapist who is called for expert advice), we had lively conversations about the brotherhood/sisterhood aspect that exists in the military, about the need for support and mental health counseling for families and the soldier given in a timely and generous manner, and the knowledge that at any time anyone in a military program can get “the call” for active
duty. So while the writing may have not been a favorite of some, the conversations generated by the work were enjoyed by all.
“All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost”
Michael and Jolene’s marriage is far less than perfect. In fact, their marriage is in trouble. And then to make matters even more complicated Jolene, a National Guard pilot is called to active service. Like any parent, Jolene hates to leave her family but duty calls and her husband, a defense attorney is left home alone to care for their two daughters. Homefront is a glimpse into the life of a military family. “It is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope.”
Kristin Hannah is the author of numerous compelling novels such as Firefly Lane, Winter Garden and Night Road. Please join is in reading her latest novel Homefront.
This past month we were fortunate to win copies of Night Road by Kristin Hannah. Jude is a wonderful mother, although she is somewhat protective of her 18-year-old twins, Mia and Zach. When Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, enters their lives as Mia’s friend, Jude welcomes her since Mia had difficulty making friends. Eventually Lexi and Zach fall in love, and the three teens experience partying and drinking during their senior year. A tragic accident occurs which tears the family apart and has a deep impact on Lexi.
We had a spirited discussion about the book and its characters. Most felt that the characters in the book were portrayed in an extreme fashion, and that the events were somewhat contrived. However, some felt it was necessary for the author to do so in order to make her points. For many of us, it brought back the angst of raising teenagers, and the struggle to be protective without hovering. As made clear in the book, no matter what choices we make as parents, there is definitely luck involved in having our children survive the teenage years unscathed.
Although the book itself did not get rave reviews from the group, it certainly led to an interesting discussion. Some felt it would be helpful for teens to read the book to see what an impact drinking and driving can have, but others felt it was too extreme a situation, and that in any event most teens feel invincible, and that bad things will never happen to THEM. We all agreed that communication with our kids is the best way to have an impact, although it certainly does not guarantee smooth sailing.
I just started reading Night Road and it is all coming back to me. Those high school days, when my kids had just gotten their drivers licenses. Staying up late at night, waiting until the beep, beep of the door signaling me that they were home and I could go to sleep! No more worries!
I have to admit that I have an uneasy feeling reading this book. I know that something bad is going to happen… I just don’t know what. Join us in reading Night Road.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. ALL WHO ENTERED ARE WINNERS, IN FACT MOST OF YOU HAVE PROBABLY ALREADY RECEIVED YOUR BOOK! BE SURE TO GET BACK TO US AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF NIGHT ROAD!
We would love you to read along with us and in order to encourage you to do so, we are giving away 6 copies of this month’s book Night Road! To enter just tell us your home city and state and what book you are recommending these days. It is that easy! Winners will be notified by email.