Jolene was no stranger to tough times and heartache. She was left to fend for herself when her alcoholic parents were killed in a car crash when she was 17, and the wounds from that traumatic time never fully healed; however, she was left with a certain sense of personal responsibility when it came to choosing happiness over despair moving forward in life. All day, every day, Jolene chose happiness. What once was an endearing quality that attracted Michael (her husband) to Jolene turned redundant and…essentially annoying…as the years passed by in their marriage. They had hit a new low as a couple. Their pre-teen daughter was struggling to survive middle school growing pains and friendship betrayals, Michael’s case load as a lawyer was growing by the second and, to top it all off, the spark that had once ignited their relationship eventually burned-out leaving Michael angry and Jolene hurt. Amid her personal woes, Jolene served her country as a military helicopter pilot, but was currently in the Reserves when she received the call to serve alongside her best friend, Tami (also a pilot in the Reserves) in Operation Iraqi Freedom half a world away from her family. As nobody in her family supports her and her chosen career, Jolene reluctantly leaves her family in turmoil as she serves her sworn military duty in fighting for freedom. Michael is hardly prepared for life as a single dad, and his world is further turned upside down when the unthinkable happens. It will take changes of heart, forgiveness, acceptance, and an unimaginable amount of strength and commitment to repair the damage of a broken resolve as well as a broken heart.
Why I read it: Recommendation from a friend
Trigger warnings: PTSD, substance abuse, mild language, war/battle scenes
Kristin Hannah has the unique ability to rip my heart out, smash it into a thousand pieces, then carefully put it back together in the most beautiful way through her storytelling and character development. She often writes about family unrest and broken relationships, but this is the first book of hers I have read that incorporates the military aspect into what would otherwise be seen as a typical civilian, suburban life. I am known to everyone around me as being a strong Patriot with a capital P, so this book stirred up both patriotic and familial emotions in me due to my personal commitment to honoring those who have served (and their families). I related to Jolene in so many ways as a mother who every day makes the conscious choice to be happy even when things are simply not going your way. Even though neither my husband nor I have served in the military, Hannah writes the characters and develops the situations in such a way that you feel like you can relate on every level. I loved most of the characters, and I loved to hate the others. I was very satisfied with the length and pace of the book, and I loved the alternating points of view. Finally, grab your tissues because you will most likely shed a tear or two toward the end. I drew the attention of those sitting around me in the bleachers as I finished this book sobbing the entire time while I waited for my oldest to finish swim practice. ENJOY!