Please welcome Carol Mason, author of three novels - The Secrets of Married Women, Send Me A Lover, and The Love Market - to review one of her favourite recent reads, Home Front by Kristin Hannah.
First, the synopsis of Home Front...
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.
Guest Review by Carol Mason
If I’m going to be honest, I doubted that Home Front by Kristin Hannah would be my kind of read. Did I really want to know about a female Black Hawk pilot who is deployed to Iraq? In school I could barely use a hockey stick. Serious trauma for me is Estee Lauder discontinuing my lipstick shade. While I might be open-minded when it comes to books, I at least like to read about women who are from my same tribe.
And yet very quickly I recognized familiar ground – issues and dilemmas that have featured in my own novels. Married for 12 years, Jolene and Michael’s relationship has gone stale. Her workaholic lawyer husband forgets her birthday, barely knows his two daughters, and, worse still, has never taken his wife’s career seriously. Then he tells her he doesn’t love her anymore. Two days later, she learns she’s being deployed to Iraq.
Now neither Jolene and Michael can shirk their duties – hers, to her country, and his, to caring for his children, the first two casualties of this story. Ironically, Michael tells his wife, “I’m scared. I don’t know if I can handle it’. As she writes the letters she must write to her family – the ones they will read if she never comes home - and prepares to leave her household in as much order as she possibly can to make things easier for Michael, we see that Jolene is a hero before she even goes into combat. Michael is feeling bitter, abandoned and emasculated. Michael doesn’t support the war, but he does support the warriors – yet he can’t include his wife among them.
As Michael bumbles through his new role as working husband and Mr. Mom, Jolene experiences that leaving her family is the hardest part of going to war. Only when Michael takes on the defence of a young soldier accused of murdering his wife does he gain an understanding of PTSD and what Jolene might actually be going through – as opposed to the protective “lies” she has told them about what her role is over there. And then he is haunted by his own regrets.
It’s at this point in the story that I started to see there are two heroes in this novel. Imperfect, traditional Michael, forced out of his comfort zone, suddenly discovers a new side to himself. Watching him start to excel as a parent, and to torment himself for how cavalier he once was about their life, and their love, I realized why the book is called Home Front.
Desperate for her to know how much she means to him, he writes her a letter. But will she receive it in time, before her life is about to change in the cruelest way possible? And when she comes home utterly broken, is there any way back for them?
This novel tore my heart to pieces. It gave me an eerily real taste of what it would be like to watch someone I love go to war, and a whole other way of thinking about what honor truly is. As an achievement by a novelist, well, if anyone thinks they could have handled this topic better, let them stand up and be counted.
Thank you Carol!
Carol Mason is the author of The Secrets of Married Women, Send Me A Lover, and The Love Market. Her books are translated into nine languages, available in thirteen countries, and are bestsellers in Canada, where she now lives. Born and raised in Northern England, Carol calls herself "a writer of real life, whose characters are as intimately-known and complex as our quirky and most longstanding best friends." Her books were recently re-released for Kindle at $3.99. Visit www.carolmasonbooks.com to learn more.
Check out our reviews of Carol's novels: