Homefront by Kristen Tsetsi
Published by Penxhere Press
Source: I won it!
As the book opens, Jake is preparing to deploy to Iraq. His 26-year-old live-in girlfriend, Mia is already on edge about how she will deal with his absence. She tells him she's not even sure she'll be able to write.
After Jake's gone, Mia (who used to be a college professor) tries to return to what passes for a normal life when you've been moved to a city where you only have one friend and the only job you've been able to find is as a taxi driver. One day she picks up as a fare Donnie, the Doctor, Donaldson. Donnie takes an immediate liking to Mia and asks for her to return to pick him up when his work shift is over. When she does, she finds a very inebriated Donnie who is at one minute overly solicitous and the next verbally combative. Donnie is a Vietnam vet who bears the scars of the things he's seen and the way he was treated when he returned from that war. Mia finds herself unable to say "no" to Donnie as he, time and again, pleads with her to spend time with him. Although Mia occasionally feels uncomfortable with Donnie, theirs is, for the most part, a platonic relationship fueled by massive amounts of bourbon.
Meanwhile, Mia's friendship with Denise is tried when she begins to suspect that Denise, who she has believed to be the perfect soldier's wife, is having an affair. And dealing with Jake's mom, Olivia, who calls her son "Jakey," is almost more than Mia can bear.
Soon Mia finds herself unable to work, unable to stop watching the news, unable to care for herself or her cat, and unable to stop drinking. She longs for Jake to call but can't bring herself to pick up the phone when he does. She can't wait for his letters but finds herself unable to write. When she discovers that Jake has email, she uses it to vent her frustration. Jake may be in Iraq but Mia finds life as the one left behind every bit as difficult.
"Home Front" is not an easy book to read; it's difficult to watch Donnie battle his demons and both Mia and Denise fail at being left on the home front. But this is a story that no one else seems to want to tell which made it a story worth reading for me. Tsetsi writes from experience (she was left behind when a loved one went off to war) and the result is a book that is raw and realistic. Tsetsi also combines her straight-forward prose with bits that are almost stream of consciousness which makes for a very unique story telling style.
Tomorrow I'll post an interview with Tsetsi where she'll talk about her writing style, her own time as a taxi driver, self-publishing and starting Backward Books, a group of self-published authors banded together for marketing purposes.