Home Front

Reading headlines about Tammy Duckworth, the double amputee Army helicopter pilot now running for Congress, and other survivors like her, evoke admiration for their strength, but not a real understanding of their personal trials and courage; Kristin Hannah offers some of that background in her new book – Home Front.  Hannah credits Chief Warrant Officer 5 Teresa Burgess, a Blackhawk pilot, for help with the military aspects, but Hannah’s story will have you tearing up – almost from the beginning.

How much harder would it be for a soldier to leave home for war, if the soldier were a woman and mother, whose husband has just asked for a divorce before she shipped out?  Jolene Zarkades is a forty-one year old weekend warrior with the National Guard, easily juggling a few flights a week in her helicopter with managing her middle school daughter’s preteen angst and her four-year olds exuberant energy.  Her best friend, Tami, lives next door and also flies with the Guard.  Jolene’s husband, Michael, is on the brink of a midlife crisis.

Suddenly, Jolene’s Regiment is called up, and she is assigned overseas.  Hannah inserts the private drama and fear through conversations between Jolene and Tami and the letters and videotapes left behind for the family.  When the inevitable helicopter crash happens, the story turns inward to how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects those who make it back.  Hannah weaves a court drama into the mix (Michael is an attorney) that has a war veteran on trial for murdering his wife.  Balanced with Jolene’s journey of recovery and self-recrimination, the trial offers another opportunity to  examine the effects of PTSD.

Home Front retains the flavor of Hannah’s writing style (see reviews of her other books below), but takes on the added task of informing; her characters juggle with family issues but this time the confrontations seem less sentimental.  I stopped reading this book many times, thinking it couldn’t get much worse, as I looked for another box of tissues.  Jolene’s circumstances continued to get worse – until, of course, Hannah brings the story to a realistic ending.  But the resolution is not as important as the journey Hannah will take you on.

Other books by Hannah: