Monday, January 21, 2013

321 (2013 #5). Home Front

by Kristin Hannah

Jolene is a helicopter pilot in the Army Reserves and the mother of two daughters.  Her 12-year marriage to attorney Michael is on rocky ground, and then she's called up and sent to Iraq.  A life-changing event there has a profound effect on her as well as all of her family and friends.

I won enough copies of this book to distribute to my book club, and we discussed it last week.   This isn't the type of book our group typically chooses - we tend to gravitate towards literary fiction, historical fiction and narrative nonfiction.  However, members felt that even though it "looks like a romance," it was "good to read" and "very informative" about life for a military family, especially during deployment.

Some of us, though, were "surprised at her relationship with her husband," and felt the portrayal of Michael was not realistic.  We found it hard to believe that someone with anti-war sentiments would even date a member of the Reserves, let alone marry her.  We were also surprised by how unprepared he seem to be for her deployment.

Reservists spend a weekend a month and two weeks each year away from their families.  On top of that, according to her interview with Chief Warrant Officer 5 Teresa Burgess, a female helicopter pilot who was author Kristin Hannah's advisor, "Pilots have extra requirements for duty to keep proficient at their flying duties."

Surely Michael would have had some practice and be able to take care of a 12-year-old and a 4-year-old on his own?   He was luckier than most, having the help of his mother, Mila.  We were amused with the scene about sanitary napkins, although that was foreshadowed earlier in the story.

Another member, though, said that "before Iraq, a lot of people were in the National Guard thinking they'd never be deployed."  However, this same member "didn't see him as patriotic" and felt Michael's change at the end of the book "was too quick."

Some of us thought the 12-year-old, Betsy, was incredibly bratty, but others thought her "behavior was realistic" - "girls about that age are monsters."  Some of us thought the 4-year-old, Lulu, was too babyish.  Others thought the big age gap between the girls contributed to that, and that perhaps Jolene "wanted to keep the little one a baby."

One member who couldn't attend our discussion wrote:

...I did read the book.  Enjoyed it too.  As a prior military wife, I felt that it was very accurate with the exception of one tiny detail.  When the husband went through the gate of the military base, the book said that he showed his driver's license.  As a military family member, the husband should have been issued a military ID card that is normally shown to the sentry at the base gate.  In addition the military family is issued a base sticker that is affixed to the windshield of all family vehicles.  If the driver happens to be using a non-family vehicle, such as a rental car, the military ID card would suffice.  I've never seen the sentry ask for a driver's license.

On a personal note, I enjoyed the side story about Michael's Keller case, the veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Having lived in the Seattle area for 21 years, I also liked the little details that brought that area, especially Poulsbo, to life.

We all agreed that, despite its inaccuracies or unrealistic scenarios, the book was eye-opening with its focus on the effects of deployment and PTSD on the military and their families.  We enjoyed the opportunity to read a genre we might not normally choose, and thank for the chance to do so!

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[Would you like to get free copies of Home Front for your book club to discuss?  I have a number I can send one lucky group, if you and members of your group will agree to post comments or feedback about the book and/or their discussion on one or more of the following:
You also need to agree to pass the books on to others for free, or donate them to a library or other charitable group.

E-mail me at chick_a_deedd at yahoo dot com and tell me the number of members in your book club.  First group to respond with the number that matches the quantity of books I have wins, and I will send the books to you for free by media mail rate.  Contest open only to residents of the USA.]

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