This was probably the most emotionally taxing novel that I have read in the last six months. And it was 100% worth it! We are introduced to Jolene, her husband and their children as a family in crisis. Jolene and Michael are on the brink of divorce, their older daughter acting out as her tween years come upon her and their youngest “escaping” it all by being “invisible.” Michael tells Jolene “I don’t love you anymore” and the next day she receives the call…she and her unit are being deployed to Iraq.
There is just something about the way that Kristin Hannah writes that manages to evoke a myriad of emotions from me. Throughout the first 1/4- 1/3 of the novel I absolutely hated Michael. And I do not use the word hate very often. The rage literally burned inside me every time his thoughts or actions were voiced. And then the tears would well up on behalf of Jolene. By the middle of the book we see the potential and the growth in Michael and somehow by the end, find ourselves rooting for him as well as Jolene…rooting for “Them.” I would say that is the epitome of character development…to be able to take the reader on a journey from vitriolic hate to compassion and caring for a character in the course of 300 pages.
The parts of the book depicting Jolene’s experiences in Iraq, her injury and subsequent adjustments upon returning home are nothing short of horrifying and heartbreaking. I think that we all “know” what war entails but most of us probably do a pretty good job of ignoring those realities…this book will force one to face them head on. It forces one to look at not only the active soldiers, but the veterans who come home and are then facing their own private war every day whether it be due to physical injury or psychological trauma. And I think that no matter how we may stand politically regarding America’s Foreign Policy, none of us can disregard on a personal level the sacrifices that our military and their families make on a daily basis.
In her latest novel, Kristin Hannah brings home the realities of military life and the incredible sacrifices that our service men and women make on a daily basis. She explores interpersonal relationships as well if not better than any other author I can think of. Relationships between friends, between husband and wife, between siblings, and perhaps most importantly she examines what it means to be true to oneself…whatever the cost.
I recommend this book to…Everyone.
The one caveat? Make sure that you have plenty of tissues at the ready…I cried like a baby throughout.