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
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.