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Homefront Paperback – March 22, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Penxhere Press (March 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615139906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615139906
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,754,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Kristen Tsetsi is certainly in great command of language and craft, which should not be surprising--her fiction has been published in Storyglossia, and other respectable venues...Like the war front, Homefront is a place of struggle, this one taking place in the hearts and minds of those left behind, and like in real combat, feelings and relationships can become missing in action. This is a thoughtful and elegant book; the writing immersive, evocative, and polished; the structure reflecting the sense of dislocation and of something missing in Mia's life." -- PODler Review

If there's a war on (and, these days, there's usually a war on), I want to be reading about it. I appreciate first person accounts, either fictionalized or not, and Kristen Tsetsi's Homefront, an emotional novel about a young couple's separation when Jake is shipped to Iraq, is a worthy new entry in this category. -- Levi Asher, Literary Kicks, July 19, 2007

Kristen J. Tsetsi's debut novel, Homefront, takes us into the life of twenty-six year old Mia, who faces a battle against anxiety, loneliness and despair when her boyfriend is deployed to Iraq.

By alternating plot with a slices-of-life format, Tsetsi gives dimension to her book in a subtle and masterful way, contrasting her clear, precise, concrete prose--which makes up the majority of the book--with a quasi-stream-of consciousness style interspersed throughout. Her solid, seamless and detailed writing has the power to bring us into each scene. The result is an engaging, realistic portrait of a lover's life at the homefront.

Mia (is this name a too obvious choice for a book dealing with war's consequences?) is the long-term girlfriend of Jake who is left at home while Jake fights in Iraq, not knowing when or if he will return. She is angry, bitter, and especially hostile to Jake's mother, but because of her circumstances we can sympathize with her. Her worry for him is valid; the guilt she feels every time her thoughts stray from him (fearing he will die during a moment when she is not thinking about him) is revealing of the psychological suffering she is enduring: "How long had it been? Minutes? An hour? Forever. That could have been the moment he died and his absence from my thoughts were a sign, a goodbye." She continuously acts out: binge-drinking, breaking things, slapping an innocent soldier, and setting things on fire. We wonder why she isolates herself so much. Is she so trapped in her circumstances as she thinks she is?

Part of her angst seems to stem from her doubts about the survival of her and Jake's relationship. Tsetsi keeps the reader wondering too, because we're just as confused about where she stands with him as she is. I wondered if Mia makes a mistake by not taking a lover when she has the chance. Instead she seems to prefer the company of Donny, an alcoholic Vietnam vet who pencils Mia's portrait. (In these scenes with Donny, the dialogue is very true but a bit exhaustive). Mia's motivations are not always clear, but what is clear is her obsessive love and feeling of helplessness--feelings most of us can relate to, which is why this book pulls us along. In the end, Mia shows her compassion, and we, the readers, hopefully have more compassion too.

The above review was contributed by: Sonia Reppe. -- Bookpleasures.com, April 24, 2007

[A]n intensely intimate and affecting story of Mia, who's stuck inside a tornado of worry after her boyfriend deploys to Iraq. If you were moved by Tsetsi's STORYGLOSSIA Fiction Prize 2006 winning story "They Three at Once Were One," which was also recently named to the notable list in the Million Writers Award, this novel will immerse you deeper into the untold war story of what those waiting on the homefront experience while their loved ones are deployed.

Immersive is one of the primary criterion by which I judge novels, and I was 100 pages into Homefront before I looked up from the book. The beginning is grabber with the conflicted relationship, the impending sense of doom, and the isolation of the narrator. Structurally, it is told in a psuedo-diary format, and that heightens the immersion in two ways. First, by creating the expectation of intimacy and then delivering. And secondly, through the use of compression. Parts of the story are left out--what the narrator knows but doesn't need to write to herself--which is a narrative strategy that creates participation as the reader tries to fill in the gaps. This missing information is also a correlative for what Mia is missing, as the reading experience takes on the same feeling of dislocation that Mia feels. -- Storyglossia Review, May 29, 2007

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?

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 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. --Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books, March 5, 2009

There are many novels about war, most from the battlefield where there's page-turning tension and drama. But there are few stories written from the point of view of a loved one back home waiting, and waiting some more, not knowing if or how the soldier will return home. Perhaps that's because so few have found an interesting way to write such a story, but that has changed, thanks to Kristen Tsetsi, author of Homefront (Penxhere Press).

Mia is the protagonist in this affecting, semi-autobiographical story. The army has put her in limbo, thanks to her boyfriend being sent off to battle following the events of 9/11. Suddenly, Mia's world is shaky and she needs to know what's going on "over there" by constantly watching television reports; when there is news of life lost, she waits time and time again for that official visit with the foreboding knock on her door.

I wish more writers would take the time to read Homefront. Tsetsi does a perfect job of showing and not telling. For instance, it didn't escape this reader that the boyfriend's mother supports the troops with not one, but six yellow ribbon bumper stickers, all plastered on her gas-guzzling SUV. And, instead of trying to explain, we're simply shown that one married army wife might be unfaithful to her husband when "Her 'hi' sounds single." It's also easy to envision another character whose voice is "smoke scratched." In spite of such a somber story, these descriptions are pure delight. -- The Huffington Post, October 13, 2009

The uniformed soldiers just outside the doorway need not say a word -- the spouse inside already knows what they are about to say.

It is a painful and familiar scene, one played out often in fiction. But what was life like at home, before the fateful knock?

Kristen J. Tsetsi tries to tackle that question in her novel "Homefront," the story of Mia, a young woman separated from her boyfriend, Jake, a helicopter pilot who has deployed to Iraq.

The book, published in 2007, has received positive comments from members of the military community. Tsesti, a former newspaper reporter and English teacher, learned the pain of separation when her boyfriend and now her husband, Capt. Ian Feyk, deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He has since left the military.

"The only thing worse than finding out your loved one is dead is waiting for that news," Tsetsi said in a phone interview from her home near Nashville, Tenn. "One of the major reasons I wrote this book was to show people the complex nature of it."

Tsetsi's Mia feels not only the obligatory sadness and loneliness from being separated from Jake, she also sends him mercurial rants, refuses to answer his phone calls, fights with him over the time he spends talking to his mother and even finds herself wishing he were dead, if only to regain a bit of control over her life.

"I can't be mad, can I?" Mia writes Jake in an unsent e-mail. "I don't get to be mad. You're at war after all. Anything I feel is inconsequential. -- The Stars and Stripes, August 30, 2009

Review

One of the most moving and evocative portraits of people left back at home while their spouses fight overseas.

Kristen Tsetsi is as sincere and gifted as they come.

What makes Homefront so powerful is that it is not an explicitly anti-war novel, or pro-troops novel. Certainly, it's about the struggles of those left back on the homefront while their love ones fight overseas. But also the novel is universal: it can be read and understood by anyone who's been in a long distance relationship, or knows someone who's faced a terminal illness, or, frankly, anyone who's missed somebody, while at the same time providing a precise window in that can only be understood by those who have experienced wartime directly. That is an amazing balance: both the universality and the uniqueness of what these characters are feeling.

This is great novel. Read Tsetsi's fiction posted online and her blog and discover one of the better writers you are likely to read.


More About the Author

Homepage: http://kristenjtsetsi.com
Email: ktsetsi AT gmail DOT com
Blog: http://kristenjtsetsi.com

Kristen Tsetsi is an award-winning fiction writer and a feature writer & columnist for a Connecticut newspaper. Her semi-autobiographical debut novel about being the one left behind during wartime, Pretty Much True... (called "stark and beautiful" by Feministing and "living, breathing and absolutely engrossing" by NYT bestselling novelist Caroline Leavitt), has been featured on NBC, NPR, the Huffington Post, the Stars and Stripes, and in newspapers around the country.

Much of her short fiction, including Pushcart Prize-nominee "They Three at Once Were One" and fiction competition winner "Becoming an Oates Girl," can be found in her collection Carol's Aquarium (ebook).

Kristen is a former instructor of expressive writing, play writing, and screenwriting, a former adjunct English professor, and a former cab driver. In 2010, she was privileged to edit Volume 11 of American Fiction (judged by Clint McCown), and in 2011 she was equally privileged to co-edited Volume 12 (judged by Josip Novakovich).

When not spending time with her husband, whose 2003 deployment to Iraq inspired Pretty Much True..., Kristen writes and films scenes for "Inside the Writers' Studio," a comic-relief YouTube series for writers co-created and co-written (and brilliantly edited) by author R.J. Keller.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Every once in a while I will start a book and never want it to end.
J. Aaron lindsey
Mia's friends and aquaintances are full and believable with their own unique personalities.
Deanna L. Soderberg
Gives the insight of what family members go through when their loved ones are at war.
Carrie E. Bliss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vara Scott on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I started to read "Homefront" late at night, before I slept, and the next morning when I woke I didn't leave my bed until it was finished. My own life was on hold as I followed the life of a young woman whose boyfriend deploys to Iraq. Even though I am nothing like the main character, Mia, I FELT what she was going through. I am a military spouse and spent many hours of my own watching CNN live coverage and chewing the nubs that I called my fingers whenever a convoy was attacked. So often, when we see the people whose lives are entwined with those of the deployed Armed Forces, we think they are amazingly strong to endure such separation. They are, they are strong, but they're also weak at times. Sometimes, beneath their public face they pout and curse and weep. In a shameful moment, they may imagine life without the beloved face they kissed so many months ago. Mia's unseen life is fascinating and the people she sort of...finds herself with are about as mismatched as they can be-another frequent reality of military families. Her story is all about the little moments; the events taking place are merely a vehicle to take you to her innermost thoughts. Kristen Tsetsi is an amazing writer, the words in her story placed like the sometimes bold, other times faint and whispering strokes on a painted canvas. Her timing plays havoc with your senses. She doesn't give you what's expected at all. Loved this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John McDonald on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Occasionally, a book comes along that you know you will want to share before you've finished the read. Homefront is such a book. Drawn in from page one, I stayed mesmerized, needing to know how Mia survives her own emotional battles after Jake (her boyfriend) leaves for Iraq. The author has given us a character full of depth; opening her life, sharing her fears, and making us care. And in the end, allowed me some small bit of insight in to what my mother must have faced when my dad was off at war.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Highly recommend this novel. Sucked-in from page one. Tsetsi's writing gets you so involved with the main character (Mia): you cry with her, laugh with her, feel her, become intoxicated with her. Get sick with her, feel the pain. Couldn't put it down til the last page, which comes all to sudden. Can't wait for her next one!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James W. Parks on July 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
All of them - the neighbors, her man's mother, the newscasters, her cab fares - are driving Mia crazy and crazier as she waits for something, anything, to let her know he's okay as he fights in Iraq and she waits at the upstate New York Army post which serves as her impromptu home.

She is a woman in limbo, free-falling through strata of emotion exquisitely described in an ebb and flow of free-floating anxiety. One waits with her, close by the side of this principal of many finely crafted characters, until the conclusion of a dramatic interlude in the life of a young, vital woman. This tale of war takes on a non-partisan stance in a rarely seen account of the world as it exists when all life's plans and all of life's true pleasures are suspended by happenings that are beyond one's control.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lynn McNamee on October 3, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Plot/Storyline: 4 Stars

This book did not have a conventional "plot," it is more just an ongoing storyline. The story follows a segment of Mia's life when she is left at home while her long-term, live-in boyfriend is deployed to a war area.

The storyline flowed well with dates at the beginning of each chapter allowing the reader to have a clear concept of the timeline. I like this format as it never leaves me guessing as to how much time has passed or trying to pick out phrases such as `last week' or `two months ago'.

There is a side story of Mia's friend, Denise, who is a `left at home' wife. This was an interesting addition as it showed an entirely different viewpoint from Mia's.

The story does suffer somewhat with not many specific events occurring and most of it simply being thoughts and observations of Mia. However, I will admit that I am more of an action oriented reader. Although, the reader is given the impression that Mia spends the bulk of those many months sitting in her apartment without actually doing much of anything. This just struck me as a little unbelievable.

I found the ending to be very abrupt and unsatisfying.

Character Development: 3 Stars

When I look at character development, my first question to myself is: Did I like the characters or dislike the characters as seemed appropriate for what the author was trying to accomplish? In this work, I felt the author was attempting to get the reader to sympathize somewhat with Mia.

Unfortunately, I just couldn't sympathize with Mia at all. She came across as a spoiled brat with odd, illogical motivations. So many of her actions are just plain selfish.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James C. Moore on May 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
War counts the most casualties off of the battlefield. There is a long, delicate chain of lives connected to every soldier that falls in a field of fire. Each of those individuals, linked by blood or love, feels a ripple of pain that outlives the political issue that sent some mother's son or daughter off to combat. And still we fight. Every generation seems doomed to total the costs of war.

As a television news correspondent, I spent years reporting from military bases where young families and lovers were being separated by the decisions of old men. I wondered what their lives were like after the planes and trains had departed and carried off the fathers and mothers and daughters and sons into an unknowable risk. In a few cases, families opened doors to our camera crews and shared their agonies of lonely Christmases, missed births, uncelebrated anniversaries, and just the ache of the great wait.

I recall being in the gymnasium one morning at Ft. Hood in Texas as the families were saying their good-byes and a nine-year-old girl was unable to release the leg of her father's camouflaged pant leg. She screamed as he dragged her toward the door and the inevitable separation. Unable to avoid her pain, I approached her with my camera crew and asked what I realized, even then, was an inane question about why she couldn't let her father go to the Persian Gulf.

"Don't you think the country needs your daddy?" I asked.

"No," she cried. "I think I need my daddy."

I had never had a better understanding of the agony of military separation until I read Kristen Tsetsi's haunting and lyrical debut novel Homefront.
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