I should have known from the title, that this would be a novel about a military family and tragedy. But somehow, that passed me by until the actual deployment to Iraq happened. (The novel is set during 2005, during Dubya’s Administration.)
Perhaps it is because of the way the novel opened, with teenaged Joleen listening to yet another fight between her drunk & out-of-control parents.
But this novel is really about another family, the family that Joleen created with lawyer husband Michael and their two children “fragile” 12-year-old Betsy and her much younger sister Lulu.
The first third of this story concerns this family, a typical American family with a mother who works relentlessly to be the Perfect American Mother, her entitled daughter Betsy, her prick of a husband Michael who avoids his family with his “work obligations” and charming 4-year-old Lulu, who we know will grow up to be just as obnoxious and self-centered as elder sister Betsy.
Everything is slowly disintegrating in an all-too-common way as a marriage begun in the fire of passion turns cool in the treadmill of cupcakes, carpools and logistics. Joleen has perfected the art of running the household and her children’s lives smoothly. But there is almost no emotion left in the heart of her marriage.
This part of the story was slow-going and a depressing read. IMHO the story didn’t really take off until Joleen’s deployment to Iraq. Of course Betsy, even though she is 12 years old, really doesn’t understand why Mom just can’t say “no” to the military’s demands. Neither does her self-absorbed prick of a husband. Poor Lulu, at four, is totally confused and upset by it all. But there it is. If you belong to the Military, you have to abide by the oaths you took, and if it calls, you answer.
And so Joleen leaves her family. Of course, tragedy ensues. Of course she returns home with a bad case of survivor guilt and PTSD. Of course her body is broken. And this is the part of the story that makes this novel shine, as we see this group of very flawed people somehow come together to heal.
There aren’t that many novels out there about female soldiers who are forced to leave their children in order to serve this country. If you have been searching high and low for something like this to read, this novel is for you. Four stars. #homefront #kristinhannah #femalesoldier #helicopterpilot #iraqwar