Book review: Home Front

Home Front

Kristin Hannah

Pan Macmillan

Review: Karen Watkins

Best-selling author of more than 20 novels, Kristin Hannah is known for writing romance, historical fiction and stories with magical twists.

In the conversation with the author section at the back of Home Front, Hannah says she has never had such a difficult time writing a novel.

First was the burden of authenticity and secondly she was undone by the emotional component of this novel.

The heroine is Jolene whose parents die when she is 17, leaving her to fend for herself.

Having to deal with the legal challenge of making her way in the world and figuring out what to do next, she meets Michael at a legal aid office.

He is an intern on his first year of law school and helps her as much as he can.

Six years later they meet up again and soon get married.

They have two girls, Betsy, a pubescent 12-year-old who is dealing with mean girls at school and Lulu, a demanding 4-year-old.

Jolene is balancing all of this while serving in the military flying helicopters and Michael is suffering from the spark having gone out of the marriage after his father died.

Jolene and her best friend Tami are called to serve in Iraq. When she leaves, Michael suddenly has to balance being a full-time dad while working on a case about an ex-soldier who shot the wife he loved.

In Jolene’s emails and letters home she only talks about upbeat things.

Then something happens that makes the entire family face the true cost of war.

From the questions and answers at the back of the book Hannah did much research which makes the characters and story feel real, as if Hannah is writing from personal experience. She reveals the intimate dual experience of a soldier and a family. She explores the journey from both sides, before, during and after war.

She also delves into the often misdiagnosed issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and the toll it takes on those who serve and those who are left behind.

For me this story has too much padding and predictability and I speed-read some drawn-out sections.

However, Home Front is a good read, an inspiring story of love, family, friendships, loss, heroism, honour and hope.