Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: "Home Front"

"Home Front" by Kristin Hannah
First published in 2012
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

I have such mixed feelings about "Home Front," a novel that explores what happens to a family when Jolene -- wife, mother, and Army National Guard helicopter pilot -- is unexpectedly deployed to Iraq. I originally picked it up because I thought I would be able to relate, seeing as I'm an Air Force wife and my husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

Not so fast. I imagine reading this for me was a little bit like a New York City newspaper reporter or a Hollywood producer reading a novel in which the characters in the books are newspaper reporters or movie producers. It's so hard to write what you haven't experienced yourself, and despite the fact that Hannah clearly got guidance from some military members, she still didn't get things right.

In fact, she's so off-base about a few specific things that I nearly gave up on the book altogether. Jolene's 12-year-old daughter Betsy is absolutely mortified that her mother is a helicopter pilot and is in the military. None of the other kids have moms in the military, she says, and at the beginning of the book she passionately pleads with Jolene not to humilate her by going to her school's career day. Throughout the book, Betsy persists with this kind of maddening behavior. I call BS. Perhaps it's because I've been around the military all my life, but this is something I just cannot fathom. I can understand children being ambivalent or apathetic about their parents' military career and upset about a deployment, sure, but to be embarrassed and ashamed? I can assure you that if this ever happens, it's seldom.

On top of that, Jolene's husband has never supported her military service, feels emasculated by her strength and independence, is not proud of her for serving her country, is angry at her for deploying and leaving him to care for their two daughters, and is complete jerk about the whole thing. Apparently, her continued service has caused him to fall out of love with her, and he tells her so right before she heads off to spend the most dangerous year of her life in Iraq. It's slightly easier for me to imagine this scenario, but it's certainly not commonplace.

Furthermore, Jolene and her family appear to be completely baffled that her unit is being deployed to Iraq. But in a post-9/11 world, deployment is just an accepted part of military service. It should hardly come as a shock, especially since Jolene is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

And (just let me vent about one more issue here) something else that got under my skin was Hannah's usage of the phrase "off to war" about 9,999 times. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone associated with the military say that in actual conversation... and my husband is actually "off to war"!

Are you jumping out of your chair to go out and buy this book now? Probably not. But don't let me dissaude you entirely. Beyond the inaccuracies (which to me were kind of a slight to the military family -- the spouses and kids who generally behave in a completely different fashion from Hannah's negative portrayal), the story wasn't all that bad. Predictable and sad, but readable. It will give readers who don't know much about the military some insight into deployment and the military lifestyle. And, while the ending isn't exactly happy, all the characters end up redeeming themselves.

Kristin Hannah has been on my authors-to-try list for a while. Though this book left me seething a bit, I may give her one more try. I'll just make sure to pick a book that's centered around a topic I'm not living out in my daily life!

Happy reading!


  1. I am glad I didn't pick this one up. I have read several of her books, my favorite: Firefly Lane, followed closely by Winter Garden.
    I have found that there is always a " let down" book in an authors batch. Hopefully it isn't the first or second one you read to turn you off to them...
    Read the backs of these two books and choose one, I promise you won't be disappointed. :0)

    1. Well I guess I'll have to give Kristin Hannah another try! I was actually tempted to go with "Firefly Lane" but I decided on this book because I thought (quite wrongly, as it turned out) the military theme would resonate with me. I'll let you know what I think!


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