Book Review: The Things We Do for Love

As heart-warming as a Hallmark Christmas movie but emotionally deep enough to leave a lasting impression, The Things We Do for Love is a satisfying read. Highly recommend for reading by a cozy fire.

The Things We Do for Love by Kristin Hannah

I had started this book earlier, but had to return it to the city library before I finished. Luckily, the Library of Grandma had a copy I could keep for longer.

Description

Infertility has broken Angie DeSaria’s heart, her marriage, and her self-confidence. To regroup, she moves back to her small Pacific Northwest hometown and takes over management of her family’s failing restaurant. After realizing waitressing doesn’t come as easily as her career in advertising, Angie hires Lauren Ribido. She forms a deep bond with the troubled seventeen-year-old. When the girl’s mother abandons her, Angie offers her a place to stay, but neither the woman who longs for a child nor the girl who longs for a mother’s love could predict the repercussions of that act of kindness.

Characters

Angie comes across a little pathetic at first, but as she grows in self-awareness, she becomes more relatable. She fits into her chaotic-but-loving family, whose support propels her toward healing. Her open heart gets her into trouble, but it rings authentic and inspiring.

I related a lot to Lauren—her drive to succeed, her insecurity, and her devastation after making one simple, but catastrophic, mistake. Adult problems mixed with tumultuous teenage hormones made her compelling. I often look for role models within characters, and I admire Lauren, even if she is fictional. She fits well with the DeSarias.

Plot

The plot is predictable, but I didn’t care. I wanted an emotionally moving story, and I got one. After being so disappointed with The Four Winds, I appreciated The Things We Do for Love’s completion. The ending was obvious to me, and the characters took forever to reach the same conclusion, but even that is realistic. Solutions are harder to find when you are inside the problem.

Writing Style

I love Kristin Hannah’s writing style. Her prose is rich with detail and emotional reflection. I needed a break after binging her books while road tripping, but I know I’ll be back for more.

Conclusion

As heart-warming as a Hallmark Christmas movie but emotionally deep enough to leave a lasting impression, The Things We Do for Love is a satisfying read. It captures the real-life pain of infertility and relational strife while championing the enduring power of family and friendship. Though I wouldn’t recommend this book for fans of cerebral thrillers, the predictable plot delivers on all its promises. Highly recommend for reading by a cozy fire.


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The Things We Do for Love

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Book Review: Home Front

I read this book eight years after it was published and fifteen years after it was set, but I still feel its themes are relevant today.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

I read this book eight years after it was published and fifteen years after it was set. For me, the most interesting part was reflecting on how much has changed in American culture since then.

Cover Description

“Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life—children, careers, bills, chores—even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a batter of his own—for everything that matters to his family.”

Characters

So many books aim for a “strong female lead” by putting breasts on a masculine character, but Jolene has a refreshingly feminine strength. As a mother, her number one priority is her daughters. She takes on a great emotional toll to spare them pain, and she sacrifices her personal preferences to keep the family running. She is strong, yet vulnerable, feeling intense emotions even as she perseveres through her trials. Jolene is three-dimensional, a shining example resilience.

Including Michael’s perspective prevents the reader from picking sides in their marital disputes. He is flawed, and his struggle with being Mr. Mom resonates with anyone who has ever worked with children. My one critique is that by the end of the book, he seemed too perfect. I have serious doubts that a man would be so persistent given Jolene’s repeated refusal of reconciliation.

Would I have said that had I read the book in 2012 when it was published? Has my opinion of people declined so much? I’m not sure. It seems to me the more “connected” we are through technology, the shorter our attention spans, and the less effort we are willing to put into our relationships. Jolene and Michael’s marriage is an example of love as a choice, of the extensive hard work needed to last until death do us part. Call me a cynic, but I don’t see that kind of love very often in times where a minor disagreement will lead to “unfriending.” Reading this book makes be think we could all use a dose of the past.

Plot

The story falls into two parts: Jolene’s deployment and her adjustment to coming home. Interspersed are Michael’s struggles as a functionally single parent. The central conflict is Jolene being deployed to Iraq, and Michael’s lack of support for her. For me, it was interesting to reflect on what dominated the headlines back then compared fills our screens now.

Overall, the plot is well-paced, somewhat predictable, but that isn’t a bad thing in a character-driven novel. I enjoyed watching Jolene and Michael grow as individuals and as a couple.

Writing Style

Hannah’s descriptions are evocative without being too high-brow. She has a talent for showing the passage of time via small things—flowers blooming, weather patterns, characters growing accustomed to their new surroundings. Her prose is clear and easy to read without lacking substance.

Miscellaneous

I read this book long after it was published, but I still found it relevant. The themes of reconciliation, supporting your spouse despite disagreements, love as a choice, and coming home both mentally and physically are as pertinent today as they were in 2012.

The story draws attention to mental health in a relatable way that is both encouraging and discouraging. Encouraging because we have made great strides in PTSD research and management since this book was set. Discouraging because so much stigma still surrounds mental health, even though increased isolation and false-faced social media have led to an even greater need to destroy that stigma.

Conclusion

As usual, you can’t go wrong with a book by Kristin Hannah. With her characteristic clear and beautiful writing style, Hannah explores the intimate landscape of human relationships. The themes of this moving story continue to speak to the heart.



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Home Front

Other books by Kristin Hannah I enjoyed


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