Book Review: Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Setting is Washington State in April of 2005. The book starts out with Jolene Zarkades and it is her 41st birthday. The backdrop is the Olympic Mountains and Liberty Bay. She has two girls, five year old Lulu and twelve year old Betsy and husband, Michael who is an attorney. Jolene enjoys running in the mornings, is a very organized person for her family and is a helicopter pilot for The Guard. She enlisted in the army when she was 18 years old and had qualified to flight school helicopter-pilot training.

She had a mother and father who drank and fought and eventually died when she was 17 years old. She did not know what she wanted to do after graduation and decided to enlist in the army. She met her best friend Tami when she was 18 and their love for flying brought them together and they had a strong, bonded friendship. They lived next to each other, got pregnant at the same time with their first child and they went from the army to the Guard when marriage and motherhood made active duty difficult. Twice a week they would go together to practice flying the Black Hawk helicopter, each taking turns at the helm.

Earlier in the morning, when she had gotten back from her run she was getting the girls ready for school and asked where their dad was, he already left. Since it was her birthday it was disappointing that he hadn’t stuck around to at least wish her happy birthday, oh well he probably has something special planned for tonight. She always likes his strong work ethic and seems to make excuses for him.

She deals with 12 year old Betsy’s trying to fit in with the cool crowd and not thinking that her mom is neat, like many twelve year olds. She has a wonderful mother in law who owns a garden store and is very helpful. Michael is in practice with his father but he passed away unexpectedly and is having a hard time dealing with it.

Jolene and Michael speak later in the day and apologized for forgetting her birthday and she said it’s fine as long as we are together. He said he would be home by eight and she said they could have a quiet meal together. He didn’t get home until midnight.

He was having thoughts about what is ahead, what his life could have been if a different path had been taken. Things were becoming rocky at home. Michael has never looked upon the Guard as important, something she really loved. Her daughter doesn’t want her to come to school in her flight uniform. She has asked Michael to come to a birthday party that the group is having for her and he doesn’t want to because they are “her” friends and he has nothing in common with them. Eventually as Michael thinks about his life, he decides that he needs to tell Jolene that he doesn’t love her anymore.

Michael is also taking on a case where a 25 year old murdered his wife. His wife that he adored and they were planning on starting a family. This young man was a model person, had never gotten in trouble and everyone loved him. He had been in Iraq though.

Jolene and Tami got the calls that they were being deployed. She had to break it to the girls, to Michael and her mother in law. Most met the information with disdain. Jolene spent the next weeks preparing the family to take care of themselves. Making a notebook with all the information that she could think of down to what meal to prepare for what day. Her heart is broken over her broken marriage but her sense of duty is strong and she has to do this.

The book goes on and tells the story of what goes on in Iraq and describes what the days are like. She tries to not let them know how bad it is and always tells them that she is not in the fighting, but she is.

The coming of Michael preparing and researching his upcoming court case makes him realize so much. He also has to be there for his girls which took him awhile to realize and to get it together. Then, a horrible accident happened during a flight in Iraq. He and Jolene had limited contact while she was over there and he never told her anything before she left. He was very selfish and wasn’t proud of her and didn’t try to understand. Her problem was that she didn’t depend on him and always was controlling. Both were at fault and had to learn hard lessons.

I whole heartedly recommend this book. It helps the reader understand what being in a war is like, getting injured and the long road to recovery along with the family side of it too.

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