Kristin Hannah is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I bought “Firefly lane” for my book club a while ago, and absolutely loved it. Most of the girls in my book-club have read it too, and it has touched each one of us in a different, yet special way. I have just finished reading “Home Front”. I had a lump in my throat by the end of the first chapter, and had tears in my eyes for most of the novel.
The story follows the life of Jolene Zarkades’, who is a mother of two young girls (aged 12 and 4) and a helicopter pilot working for the US military. After growing up in an abusive home, her parents (who were alcoholics and drug addicts) are killed in a car accident when she is 17 years old. She meets the man she is going to marry, some years later in the future, in a lawyer’s office, while pleading to not be sent into foster care as she was soon to be 18. At which point, she joined the military as she had nowhere else to go.
She is painted as a tough, strong, always positive woman, who is a hands-on mother to her girls, despite having had a shocking upbringing, and despite having a demanding career in the military. And then two things happen that alter the path of her life, changing who she is forever. Her husband, who had been her best friend, lover and confidant through thick and thin, tells her that he is not in love with her anymore, only moments before she receives a call from her best friend and colleague to say that they are being deployed to Iraq for one year. In less than two months, she would be in the middle of a war-zone; without the love and support of the only man she has ever loved.
Jolene has to come terms with leaving her family, her young children who need their mom and a marriage that is rapidly falling apart, to fulfil her commitment to her country. The portrayal of the emotions felt by each character in the book is classic Kristin Hannah. She has this way of making the characters feel like they are your best friends and your heart breaks for each of them. What got me the most was how Jolene’s two daughters dealt with the news of her deployment. The sulkiness and anger from pre-teen Betsy and the irrational emotional outbreaks from four-year-old Lulu broke my heart. I could imagine Alex, who is the same age as Lulu, behaving in a similar way, crying and pleading for me not to leave, promising to be good, tidy up his toys and eat all his food if I stay. Jolene expresses her fears that her children will forget her if something happens to her. She writes letters to her husband and girls in the event that she does not return from the war, which made my blood run cold. I must admit, this is something I think about often, which is partly why this blog exists, so that my children have a view into who I am if I am not around…
The story, which grabbed my attention from the first chapter and remained gripping, is filled with tragedy and sadness. It made me cry more than a few times, but is ultimately about forgiveness, hope, and the tenacity of real love.
I have just started “Night Road” which is proving to be just as un-put-down-able as her other novels.