There are many novels about war, most from the battlefield where there's page-turning tension and drama. But there are few stories written from the point of view of a loved one back home waiting, and waiting some more, not knowing if or how the soldier will return home. Perhaps that's because so few have found an interesting way to write such a story, but that has changed, thanks to Kristen Tsetsi, author of Homefront (Penxhere Press).
Mia is the protagonist in this affecting, semi-autobiographical story. The army has put her in limbo, thanks to her boyfriend being sent off to battle following the events of 9/11. Suddenly, Mia's world is shaky and she needs to know what's going on "over there" by constantly watching television reports; when there is news of life lost, she waits time and time again for that official visit with the foreboding knock on her door.
I wish more writers would take the time to read Homefront. Tsetsi does a perfect job of showing and not telling. For instance, it didn't escape this reader that the boyfriend's mother supports the troops with not one, but six yellow ribbon bumper stickers, all plastered on her gas-guzzling SUV. And, instead of trying to explain, we're simply shown that one married army wife might be unfaithful to her husband when "Her 'hi' sounds single." It's also easy to envision another character whose voice is "smoke scratched." In spite of such a somber story, these descriptions are pure delight.
There were so many angles I wanted to take in writing this review. First, focusing on those who are left behind to do the mundane while loved ones are off fighting, where bullets and bombs don't discriminate in a questionable war. After all, far too many head off to do battle with a people they are told is the enemy and often come back maimed or in a coffin without reason. Second, there is Mia, a character so real that I ached for her pain, one that she medicated with vodka and the occasional joint while forcing herself to go through the daily motions that serve only as ineffective distractions.
Homefront is not a political book; rather, it shows how war paralyzes a loved one from going on living in the soldier's absence. Mia tries to control what she can by refusing to get rid of a Christmas tree that is nothing more than a dried up bush. Tsetsi does an admirable job showing the reader how sometimes the gewgaws we hang on to begin to lose their sheen and are no longer as precious as they once were while the loneliness and fear we feel becomes exhausting, impelling us out of stagnation.
The cast of characters include one soldier who is against the war, or as some prefer to call it, a "conflict," and there is a Vietnam veteran who cannot forget how unappreciated he was when he'd returned home. Even though this novel was inspired by her own life, Tsetsi doesn't take sides on whether our previous president made the right decision with the lives of our men and women in the armed services. Instead, she shows what it's like to be paralyzed by fear, contrary to being strong for the country as an expected honorable sacrifice.
I'll be interviewing Kristen Tsetsi and bringing the conversation to Huffington Post readers. You may find it interesting that the author self-published Homefront. I'll ask her about this, as well as many other questions. Meanwhile, get your hands on a copy of this book, one that James Moore, co-author of Bush's Brain, blurbs with the following praise: "Tsetsi turns a discerning eye on the human condition and leaves us with great sympathy for her characters and ourselves while also providing us the unsettling knowledge that we are all to blame for what we allow to happen in both love and war."