Kristin Hannah has written some very successful and entertaining novels in the past such as Night Road, Firefly Lane and Between Sisters. It is her latest novel Home Front, however, that is her crowning achievement. This is the book that shows Hannah's extensive skills as a storyteller. She is also at her best in creating the complex and interesting characters who people the pages of her books. This book will grab you and enchant you in a variety of ways. It will also amuse you, anger you, and involve you emotionally. It is a book you will want to finish as quickly as possible while at the same time you will not want it to end.
The plot of the story centers on Jolene and Michael, a married couple with two daughters. Michael is an attorney and the main provider financially for his family. Jolene is a helicopter pilot for the Army National Guard and is also the heart of the family. She keeps the day to day operation of the household flowing smoothly, a talent that is not fully appreciated by her husband.
As the years pass Jolene and Michael begin to drift apart. Michael has doubts about what makes him happy and Jolene feels she cannot reach out to Michael in the ways she did in the past. But where Jolene wants to bring her husband back, Michael wants to leave his wife behind. All of these feelings are put on hold when Jolene's unit is ordered to active duty with deployment to Iraq.
At this point the story takes a major shift. It is no longer a book about relationships; it is a book about survival. The face of war is brought home to the reader with an intensity that inflames the pages. Jolene the wife and mother is now a warrior doing battle for her country. All of the fears and anxieties we feel for our soldiers at a distance now become personal.
War and the effects of war are major subjects upon which to spin a story. Hannah tackles these subjects head on and does not flinch from filling her pages with vivid accounts of death, maiming and survival. These are not easy accounts to read but they are heartfelt ones and make the book better than other stories being offered by other authors.
War for most of us is a faraway thing. Kristin Hannah brings it home through the struggles of Jolene and Michael. As she tries to struggle through the miseries of wartime he tries to become a better man. Each has a long way to go to survive and achieve these goals. Watching them do so is an emotional journey.
There are many good books that come our way; Home Front is one of the best. You will read the story through smiles, frowns and tears. The words will come straight off the pages and leap into your heart. How many stories have affected you that way?
You may think I am describing a book too good to be true. After you read it you will know it is even better.
Home Front is published by St Martin's Press. It contains 400 pages and sells for $27.00.
Jackie K Cooper
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