Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review of Home Front and Q&A with Kristin Hannah

Home Front by Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN13: 9780312577209
390 pages

Jolene Zarkades 41st year of life are giving her many firsts, her 12 year old daughter is showing definite signs of teen angst, her marriage is showing signs of an expiration date and her National Guard unit has just been deployed to Iraq, yes besides a wife and mother Jolene pilots Black Hawk helicopters for the military. As she prepares to leave for war she and her family deal with the news with emotions ranging from anger to fear.
Michael Zarkades has always relied on Jolene to keep the home fires running smoothly and now she’s gone to war and left him in an alien world to deal with their two daughters and his career on his own, while she’s gone he learns valuable lessons about himself, their family and the marriage he was ready to end.
Jolene finds herself in the middle of a war much different than the one viewed on the news and was mentally unprepared for as she and her Raptor team from home fly missions that vary from rescuing trapped soldiers to ferrying VIPs from base to base and lately more and more combat missions on the front lines. She finds it harder and harder to put her carefree face forward in her phone calls and emails home as she wonders what is waiting for her when she returns and more and more the thought creeping into her mind, if she returns home because it’s becoming more apparent with each mission that she could very well die here “in country” and so far from her “Home Front”.
Kristin Hannah has never disappointed me and she goes one better this time by going above and beyond expectations. She brings us an epic tale not in time but in content. She brings us much more than the family drama that enfolds between these pages. She brings us a tale of war but it doesn’t end in the usual battlefield encounter as she brings the war home with the wounded warriors it creates and the problems these injured soldiers face when they step off the transport and land on the “Home Front”. Her dialogue is touching, it’s frightening and it’s full of heart. Her characters range from the enigmatic to the pragmatic and her readers will laugh, cry and hurt with them. This is a love of country story, it’s a tale of loss, of regrets and one woman’s journey with a little help from those who love her.
If you’ve never read Kristin Hannah before this is the perfect contemporary novel to sink your teeth in, it’s a must read but it’s not for any one sex or age limit, it’s timeless and it’s a novel that you will recommend that you will buy for those you love and most of all it’s a read that will have a special place in your personal library that you will revisit many times. And most of all it will hopefully give us a new perspective when we view returning troops and bring to the forefront that their problems don’t end when they step foot back on US soil, sometimes it’s just the beginning.

Q&A with Kristin Hannah

First Kristin, I have to tell you that you are one of my all time favorite authors whom I have enjoyed for many years.  I can still see some of your more poignant of characters, especially those in Magic Hour and Winter Garden.  With as many books as I read, it’s a real testament to the author that I can still recall the characters from a 1999 novel like On Mystic Lake.

 Debbie - Tell us a little about Home Front. 

Kristin - Thank you so much, Debbie.  It’s a real pleasure to talk to you about my own books and books in general.  We readers all have so much in common.  Home Front is a very special novel to me.  At its core, the novel is about a marriage in trouble that faces an extraordinary challenge.  Michael and Jolene have lost their way over twelve years of marriage, and in the midst of their troubles, Jolene is deployed to Iraq and Michael must become the kind of father he’s never been, to two young daughters, who are hurt and confused and angry by their mother’s deployment.
Surprisingly, I think this is a story we can all relate to.  You don’t have to be a soldier or even know a soldier to relate to the powerful emotional themes in the book.  We can all understand how it feels to find that your relationship is in trouble.  And we know how difficult separation can be on a relationship—even if it is not in a life or death situation.  The deployment ups the stakes all around, but at its heart, Home Front is about two people who are separated by extraordinary circumstances.  A marriage is a tricky thing that hangs on hooks both big and small.  Every little thing can matter.  Words spoken and unspoken carry a tremendous weight, and in a way it requires as much commitment and honor to hold a marriage together as to go off to war.  In that way, we all understand sacrifice and duty and honor.

D - Could you tell us what led you to become an author in the first place. 
K- I was not one of those people who knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer.  I found my way here through a combination of good advice and circumstance.  The advice came from my mother.  When I was in my final year of law school, she took me aside one day and said, “I know you’re going to be a writer.”  Honestly, I was stunned by this observation, but it just goes to show you how profoundly a mother can know her daughter.  I hope to someday give my son a piece of advice this insightful.  I think that’s when the seed of this journey was planted, that’s when it entered my mind that such a choice was even possible.  Several years later, when I was bedridden during a difficult pregnancy, my mom’s advice came back to me and I decided to give writing a try.  That was more than two decades ago and I have never looked back. It’s taken a lot of hard work and determination, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  

D - Where do you story ideas come from, are you lead by the characters or by the storyline.
K-  Ideas are tricky things.  For me, choosing an idea is really as close to magic as this endeavor gets.  Once I have an idea, I can bring all of my technical skills and expertise to bear—I can edit and tighten and revise and re-imagine.  But until then, it’s all just a collection of ideas and issues.  Generally, a novel begins with an issue or a theme.  Night Road was about teen drinking and the difficult of raising a senior in high school; True Colors was about DNA testing for convicts; Home Front is about the sacrifice our troops—and their families---make during a deployment.  Once I have targeted a theme or issue that fascinates me enough to keep me engaged and interested for up to eighteen month, then I begin the arduous task of creating the characters and the plot that best suits my theme.  People often think that I must begin with characters, but that’s not my process.  My characters are created to serve and further the plot.  That being said, it generally takes me more work to get the characters “right”—honest and true and believable—than any other part of the book.

D - How are you coping with being an empty nester?
K - I’m glad I’m getting this question now; it’s been several years since my son graduated from high school and moved out of the house.  Honestly, it was tough in that first year.  I only have one child, and I’ll admit it, I was pretty much of a helicopter parent.  Motherhood was just so important to me.  I wanted to do all of it well—which, of course is impossible.  So, after my son left home, I missed him a lot.  I’m sure I called too often.  But then…my husband and I started traveling and having fun and beginning this second act of our lives.  Now, thankfully, my son is doing well, living in a golden state, and life is good. 

D - Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
K - Hmmm….I like to think I have a good sense of humor.  Somehow I’ve gotten this reputation for tearjerkers because I believe in exploring profound emotions and difficult challenges, but in person, I’m constantly making jokes.

D - On your website you tell how you were pulled “kicking and screaming” into the new millennium and you mention how much it’s enriched you to be able to “talk” to your fans in book clubs, on your blog etc..
K - I have been a writer for a long time.  I’ve written eighteen or nineteen books and been published for more than twenty years.  For most of those years, I did this job pretty much alone.  I lived a very quiet, reclusive life that was centered more around motherhood and school hours than writing, so I rarely, if ever, heard from readers.  I honestly had no idea who was reading my books or what they thought of them, so it’s been totally cool to begin this ongoing conversation with readers.  I try to make my facebook page a place where opinions are valued, and I hear a lot of great stuff.  It’s almost like becoming friends with people you’ve never met.

D - Did meeting your fans in multitudes change how your write at all.
K - I wouldn’t say that meeting readers has changed how I write.  If anything, it has confirmed the idea that I am writing what people want to read.  I love hearing that people were moved or touched or changed by my stories.  And I love criticism, too; anything that makes me a better, smarter, more in-touch writer can only help my career.  The one thing that has changed is my sense of responsibility.  I really want to keep writing books that my readers love.

D - Do you have any Barnes & Noble book signings or events, I’m sure the members here would love to meet you in person.
K - I do have a few Barnes and Noble signings for Home Front!  On February 2, I’ll be at the BN in Santa Monica, California at 7pm; on February 10,I’ll be in DC, at the Bethesda BN at 7 pm; and on February 13th, I’ll be at the BN on the Upper East Side in New York at 7 pm.  I hope to meet some of your readers at one of those locations.

D - Thank you Kristin for taking this time to answer my questions, good luck (not that you need it) with Home Front and with your future endeavors.
K - Thank you for taking the time to interview me, Debbie.  It’s great to get a chance to talk with you and your readers.
Buy the book here visit Kristin's website here.


  1. I loved everything about this book! Hannah brings it to the table yet again, dishing up a heavy dose of the reality of the lives of military families and the consequences of service, albeit in a role-reversed way, with the wife being the one going off to war and the husband staying behind. Even more, it is an honest look the emotions woven throughout a marriage and how, with work and dedication, the most impossible odds can be overcome. Warning: This is an emotionally draining book. Chances are, you'll either read it very quickly, like a rollercoaster ride, or have to take it in small doses to prevent complete emotional breakdown.

    1. Very good reply Canada, this was one of my favorites of Kristin's, but then I can probably say that of most of her works.

  2. Kristin Hannah's books usually pull me in immediately. I like the characters she creates. This one was even better than usual.

    1. Hi and thanks for the comment I loved this novel so much that my in-person book club just read it last month