Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Home Front, by Kristin Hannah

Home Front is the story of Jolene Zarkades, wife to attorney Mike, mother to 12-year-old Betsy and 4-year-old Lulu, and a Blackhawk pilot in the National Guard. Jolene, who had a tremendously difficult childhood with alcoholic parents, believes that being happy is a choice, an attitude that has become annoying to Mike, who has slid into depression after the death of his father (and law partner). Mike has never supported Jolene's military career, and when her unit is deployed, their marriage is in serious trouble. Mike is in trouble at home as well, since he has no idea how to deal with his two daughters' feelings about their mother's absence. Luckily, his mother lives nearby and is willing to help.

Meanwhile, the experience in Iraq is much more grueling and dangerous than Jolene, and she and her flying partner and best friend Tami are in constant peril. When their helicopter is shot down, Jolene must cope depression, PTSD, and constant physical pain from her injuries--all while observing that her family members who do not understand the person she has become. In what turns out to be a fortuitous coincidence, Mike is, at the same time, defending a veteran accused of murdering his wife; Mike sets out to prove that the killing took place while Mike was suffering a psychotic break as a result of PTSD. The case therefore provides a perspective on Jolene's experiences that helps Mike provide support for Jolene.

I know that Kristin Hannah is a very popular writer;  a friend of mine who likes her work recommended this book. I was not overly impressed with Home Front and doubt I'll try another of her books. She seems to be trying too hard--to educate the reader about the challenges facing veterans, especially returning female soldiers, and to create metaphors and other descriptive language that will move the reader. I'm not sure how to define the difference between an effective metaphor and one that feels overwritten, but for me, Kristin Hannah's writing falls on the overwritten side.

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