by Kristen J. Tsetsi
*** The Plot ***
HOMEFRONT is a novel about what it is like to be left at home when someone you love ships off to war.
Mia and Jake have a great relationship and things are going well for them. Then Jake's Army unit is ordered to Iraq for what turns out to be the start of the war, and Mia is left behind to deal with her life - and Jake's absence from it - on her own.
It's not just Mia though. There's Jake's mom, Olivia, whose car is covered in yellow ribbon magnets and who sends "Jakey" letters almost every day ... Denise, wife of a soldier who also shipped out, and who seems to have another life once her husband is gone ... and various other people in this small, military town. Each one is dealing with the war in different ways.
How will Mia handle the separation? Will their relationship be the same when (if...) Jake returns - or will there even be a relationship to return to?
*** What I Liked ***
This book is not at all what I expected it would be. Based on the description on the back I was expecting more of a non-fiction feel, more analysis of what the various characters were going through. But it is so much better than that.
Once I picked it up, I didn't want to put it down. I was drawn into Mia's life immediately. I love how the author allows the reader to get into Mia's head. The story is told in Mia's first person point of view and in the present tense, so I experienced Mia's thoughts and actions as they occurred. This helped me to identify with her right from the start. I've never been in her shoes but I felt like I completely understood what she was going though ... and it was painful to be sure. Mia's worries, her fears, her suspicions, her sense of being lost - all this made perfect sense when seen through her own eyes.
There is not a lot of description in this novel and the lack of it works well. The characters are not really described physically (and why would they be, if you actually were in Mia's head?) but that isn't a failing - it helps the story to progress quickly and not get bogged down on superfluous details.
I was very concerned that the author's own opinions on the war - positive or negative - might be a huge part of the book. Honestly, I was worried that this would be an opinion piece disguised as a novel. Thankfully that was not true. Characters in the book do express their opinions on the war but only as part of who they are, not as a "statement" by the author. In fact I'd say that the book doesn't present this war in any particular light, good or bad - it simply is what it is, and the people left at home deal with it however they can.
This is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.
*** What I Didn't Like ***
I'm not usually picky about book covers but I have to admit that this one was off-putting. After it arrived in the mail I put it aside easily for a while because the cover actually made me not want to read it.
Also, the summary on the back of the book is misleading. Here's a quote for you: "HOMEFRONT sheds needed light on the highly under-documented internal battles suffered by those left waiting." Now you tell me, doesn't that sound more like non-fiction to you?
As for the book itself, I only have two minor complaints.
First, Mia's actions toward the end of the book didn't make sense to me. I identified with her for most of the story but then she made some decisions that I simply didn't understand. However, it could just be me; you might "get it" where I did not. This didn't ruin the story for me though - I still very much enjoyed the book.
Second, the author is vague at times regarding what is actually going on in the war. She alludes to events without explaining them fully. This worked for me because I remember watching much of the bombing of Iraq and the subsequent events on TV, but it might be confusing to someone who doesn't have those memories.
But those really are minor complaints. This was a great book and I'm very glad that I read it.
*** Other Thoughts ***
If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this book. I'm very grateful to the author for sending me a copy. I'd never heard of it before she contacted me, and I hope that this post brings some well-deserved attention to HOMEFRONT.
For more info about Kristen Tsetsi and HOMEFRONT, please visit her website: http://www.kristentsetsi.com/index.html.