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Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Book cover of Home Front by Kristin Hannah
The traditional military/separation romance generally follows the same pattern: Strong guy loves his family but must leave them to do his duty to his country, much emotional drama ensues.  In her newest book, Home Front, Kristin Hannah turns that familiar plot on its head and writes about a female warrior who is deployed at the moment her family needs her most.

Goodreads summary: All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost…

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life – children, careers, bills, chores – even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a solider she has always understood the true meaning of duty. 

In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own – for everything that matters to his family.

My thoughts: Kristin Hannah's books usually make me cry.  A lot...a whole lot.  Home Front is no different.  As she writes about family, friendship, duty, honor and love, Hannah is perceptive and deliberate.  Her characters are well drawn, with depth and personality, and the issues they face are difficult, yet they felt so real.  She deals deftly with a lot of sensitive topics, including America's involvement overseas and the debt the country owes to its servicemen and women.

Jolene was a bit wooden at first, but it quickly became clear that she keeps her emotions tucked away where she doesn't have to face them.  Her time in Iraq makes her face her own fears, and those scenes were especially painful as I had to imagine all the stresses deployed parents must face.  For much of the book, though, Michael infuriated me.  I couldn't sympathize with his position and treatment of Jolene, and I didn't think the recent loss of his father warranted his jerky behavior. Thankfully, he redeems himself in the end, and becomes the stand-up guy Jolene has always believed he was.  Perhaps the best part of the book was Jolene's relationship with her best friend, Tami.  Their friendship was everything a lifelong relationship should be, and their reliance on each other was inspiring.  As in all Hannah's books, Home Front's ending is bittersweet, and it stuck with me long after I finished reading it.

As someone who has very little knowledge of the lives of military families, I can't comment on the accuracy of Home Front, but it felt very real.  Hannah bases her knowledge on her interviews with Warrant Officer Teresa Burgess (watch Hannah interview Burgess) so I have to imagine it's all very real. In the very best of ways, Home Front reminded me a of Susan Wiggs’ The Ocean Between Us, one of my favorite contemporaries about a family divided by love and duty.  For a personal look at the sacrifice our military families face, I highly recommend both these books.

Home Front has also been released on audio from Macmillan Audio.  For a sample, check out this clip of Home Front here.

Rating: A-
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Length: 384 pages
Sensuality: Minimal

Romance novel book reviews by Sarah The Brazen Bookworm

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.


  1. Oh My Gosh! I NEED to read this. NEED to read this. This sounds like such a great book, I love that it's the woman leaving, vs the man. (I live in a military area, and I've actually seen more women be shipped off than men in the past few years.)

    Jac @ For Love and Books

    1. Wow, that's amazing that you've seen such a dramatic difference in gender. I think you'd definitely enjoy this one then - I read it in one sitting! Let me know what you think. :)

  2. I'm reading this one soon. I hope I don't cry. I don't want to cry.

  3. I will be reading this shortly, and can’t wait, because I have been hearing some really good things about the book from various readers. I am glad that you enjoyed it and that the book was written with such depth. I also love it when characters show growth in the stories they are placed in, so this one is of a lot of interest to me.

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  4. The characters were realistic. The plot was complicated but the story flowed easily. It was a book I did not want to put down, even for a second, so I read it straight through. There are a lot of different subplots going on in the book and I would think this would be a good book club selection. I can see a lot of discussion being raised by many of the topics raised in this story.
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  5. Jo had it all, a family that she loves and a career in the military. She loved to fly the helicopters. She and her best friend,Tami, were called for active duty flying helicopters in Iraq. When she was shot down, the hardest test in her life began. Dealing with PTS almost beat her. A loving family and the medical team helping her brought her back home. Great read.

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Romance novel book review