Jolene Zarkades was orphaned at age 17 in 1982. Her parents were raging alcoholics and domestic abuse was part of her early life. She flees a dreadful childhood and loss of both of her parents by enrolling in flight school right after high school. 23 years later, Jolene is a Blackhawk pilot with the National Guard. Jolene is married to Michael Zarkades and they have two daughters, Betsy, 12 and Lulu, 4. They, like the majority of Kristin Hannah's characters live in an idyllic part of Washington State.
The Zarkades' lives are not as idyllic as their home and their exteriors would suggest. Michael is a driven, Type-A personality who spends long hours working and few hours to spare for his family. This is taking a toll on them as Michael frequently skips school activities, leaving an irate Jolene to make excuses for him. This continues until after an ugly confrontation, Michael point blank tells Jolene he stopped loving her, which catches her completely off guard. His theme song could be Teddy Pendergrass' "I Don't Love You Anymore." It was not that simple and yeah, it was a dirty shame.
Things get worse until Jolene and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael and his lovely mother ("Yia" to the girls) have to take charge of the household and in Michael's case find common footing with the girls. Michael is completely out of his element. It's one thing for him to blaze trails at work; it is alien (or perhaps in his mind hostile) territory on the homefront.
Meanwhile, the hositility in 2005 Iraq is intensifying. Jolene sends the girls sugar coated e-mails and downplays the danger in Iraq. In August of 2005 Jolene suffers a horrendous, traumatic loss and sadly, there are casualties. Returning home, she is a grounded raptor as opposed to the helicopter flying in command, in control pilot of the Raptor Division. Rebonding with the girls isn't easy; Jolene's personality has been adversely affected and understandably so by the traumas in Iraq. Michael is a changed man and Jolene has an added ally - the mother in law from heaven.
More allies emerge. Michael's most recent legal case involves a young man who allegedly killed his wife. The man had returned from Iraq completely changed and on constant high alert, perceiving attacks when none were evident. This case including an expert witness with the apt name of Chris Cornflower make an excellent story even better. Chris Cornflower is a simply delightful character. That legal case turns out to be the turning point in the Zarkades marriage.
I love Kristin Hannah's books and Night Road
is my other favorite Kristin Hannah book. She is a gifted writer and avid fans of chick lit will no doubt love this work as well. She takes many predicable scenarios and skillfully adds major issues such as PTSD; marital difficulties and current events, such as the war and the toll the war has taken on families as well as the people who have served. Kristin Hannah is a master writer and knows how to navigate tricky highly political and extremely volatile issues without taking a stand herself. She knows how to stay on neutral territory while writing of her characters' experiences.
Readers familiar with Kristin Hannah's delightful books will recognize the common ground of Washington State, an area with which Kristin Hannah is quite familiar. The tone of tolerance and forgiveness underscore this book. If you have not read any of her works prior to coming across THIS gem, then you will be avidly reading more. While I was disappointed that this was a CD set, I just knew I had to get a good Kristin Hannah story in whatever form it came. (I even got the book).