Homefront by Kristen Tsetsi is one of the most powerful and brilliant books I have read in a long time. In every aspect, from style to subject matter, this book feels refreshingly honest and new while also feeling strangely familiar. I say that because there are times where you are certain how things are going to play out, but Tsetsi chooses a slightly unexpected direction. Homefront begins as a slice of life story narrated by Mia, a woman whose fiancÚ, Jake, has just been deployed again to Iraq, and swiftly becomes an internal diary of a woman almost numbed by the fact that not only is the man she loves away in a foreign land, but she has no idea if he’ll ever come home.
Mia and everyone around her seem to stumble through the absences in their lives in a variety of ways and, while many of their choices may be unhealthy or unwise, they seem to do what gets them through. Sometimes it seems as if Mia is being shown a snapshot of what her life could be at any given time. The only time she really opens up is when she’s talking to Donny, a supposed Vietnam vet and the occasional soldier home from being wounded in the field of battle. Most of the times she observes and questions her friends’ actions, but in almost a clinical way like she trying to decide if what they are doing is something she might want to try herself. All the while, she is corresponding via letters with Jake and their relationship starts deteriorating. Alcohol and time spent with Donny become her escapes.
Tsetsi never gets preachy or political with her story, but you will be drawn in to what’s going on in Mia’s head. There are times you’ll find you might not even like her, but you will surprised where Mia’s journey takes her and the unexpected ending proves very satisfying. There are many ways this book could have ended that would have been soul-shattering and profound, yet Tsetsi chooses the one that is, in hindsight, probably the most obvious and definitely the most fitting. Homefront is ultimately about life and how we choose to deal with loss and grief, even when those we are mourning are still alive.
On a personal note, this is an extremely difficult book to properly review. It is an intimate and personal look into a soul bared raw for us all to see and it’s sometimes difficult to not feel like an unwelcome voyeur, especially when you find yourself quick to want to judge. I don’t think that anything I can say will really do the book justice so the best thing I can tell you is make this the next book you read. I recommend Homefront to, well, everyone. Those that have loved ones that have left or are about to go to war will see a lot of what they feel in Mia and those around her. For them and for us, Kristen Tsetsi has been kind enough to write Homefront and we are better people for it.