Book Review: Home and Away by Dean Hughes

24 Dec

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A historical fiction novel told from the perspective of a son fighting on the battlefields of Europe during World War II and his mother, struggling with worry and uncertainty about her soldier son while she tries to keep a semblance of a normal, happy Christmas holiday back on the homefront. Norma Hayes has always tried to make Christmas special for her family, but 1944 will make that more difficult with money being tight and wartime rationing making everything hard to come by. Aware of his mother’s hardships and the worry from having her eldest son at war, second son, Dennis, is determined to buy his mother a special gift this Christmas, a lavender blue dress he hopes will bring her comfort as a symbol of special times gone by and the hope of a brighter future with the family reunited at war’s end. Meantime, on the long campaign to free Europe, her soldier son carries on as best he can, the horrors of war taking its heavy toll on armies and civilians alike. On a battlefield far from home in Holland with his 101st Airborne battalion, he catches a familiar scent of lavender which briefly transports him back to the homefront to the perfume scent his mother wore, giving him a short respite and reuniting the family once again if only in his imagination. This historical fiction novel is a nostalgic and tender story about the power of love, the reality of war, and the hope we all have that things will turn out all right.

 

My Review

I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.

This is the story of 16-year-old Dennis who is at home during World War II and his older brother, Glen, who is on the front lines. Dennis is so proud of his soldier brother and can’t wait until he’s 17 so he can join and help fight the Nazis and/or the Japanese. He worries about his mom, though, and how she’ll handle things with both of her sons off to war. 

The characters in Home and Away are well developed. Dennis is a typical teen in some ways, such as his naiveté when it comes to participating in a war. At home, however, he’s learning how to deal with his father who keeps all of his emotions bottled up and his mother who has so much to worry about but tries to make Christmas happy for everyone. I can’t imagine sending a son off to war back then when there wasn’t the communication we have now…to have sit and wait to hear from your loved one for days or weeks. How horrific!

I like Dean Hughes’ writing style. It flows well and is to the point. He did a great job of showing the difficulties faced during the war by both the soldiers and their families back at home. I definitely recommend this book. It’s a wonderful Christmas story.

Available on Amazon.

 

Excerpt

It was 1944 and Glen, Dennis’s big brother, was with the army’s 101st Airborne Division, fighting in Europe. When the last letter had come from Glen-almost two weeks ago-he had been at the battlefront in Holland. Newspapers were reporting heavy casualties among the Allied forces there. Linda and Sharon didn’t entirely understand the danger, but Dennis did, and he feared every day that bad news might come. The kitchen was warmer than it really needed to be, but it was cozy, and Dennis loved the smell of turkey and the pies-and baked bread. He had eaten too much, of course, but he wasn’t going to stop until he had a slice of each pie. Over on the kitchen cabinet, the radio was softly playing. A big band was performing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” The local station in Ogden, Utah, had begun to play Christmas music that day. When Linda began to sing the words to the song, Dad finally seemed to notice, and he groaned. “They start earlier every year,” he said. “The stores must pay the radio station to play that stuff. That’s all Christmas is now-a chance to boost sales.” It was what Dad said every year. But Mom loved Christmas, and she did all she could to make the holidays nice.

 

About the Author 

Dean Hughes is a bestselling and prolific writer who published his hundredth book in 2014. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Weber State College and master’s degree and PhD from the University of Washington. He has attended post-doctoral seminars at Stanford and Yale Universities and taught English at Central Missouri State University and Brigham Young University.

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