(Image from Barnes & Noble)
I know, I know! We're closer to Easter than we are to Christmas, but since I didn't get around to reviewing this holiday story on December 25, I'm going to do it now, on February 25. Better late than never, right?
Home and Away, a short novel by Dean Hughes, takes place in the winter of 1944. The Hayes Family is trying to make the best of the Christmas season, even while their oldest son fights for his life in Holland and Belgium. Plagued with worry over her soldier son, money trouble on the home front, and her husband's constant drinking, Norma doesn't know how she'll get through the holiday, let alone make it special for her children. Although she relies on the God in whom she has unyielding faith, life is difficult for the hardworking woman.
Sixteen-year-old Dennis hates to see his mother so upset. By taking extra shifts at the pharmacy where he works, he hopes to buy her a special present, something pretty just for her. Dennis is unprepared for his father's harsh reaction to the gift, nor can he understand why his dad takes such exception to his youngest son.
During a Christmas season like no other, the struggles of the Hayes Family put a serious damper on what should be the happiest time of year. When they get alarming news from the front, they'll have to pull together to mend the cracks in their family's veneer. Can they fix what's broken? Or will Christmas 1944 be the ruin of them all?
As you can probably tell from the book's plot summary, Home and Away is not a cheesy, sentimental holiday story. It's sweet, yes, but it has a lot more depth to it than you would expect. The Hayes' are not a perfect family and, not surprisingly, they don't get a perfect ending. Still, the novel is a hopeful one. Tender and nostalgic, it captures the uncertainties of life, the realities of war, and the blessing of family, however imperfect it may be. More realistic than many Christmas tales, Home and Away is a heartwarming historical tale that can be enjoyed any time of year (even in February).
(Readalikes: Hm, I can't think of anything. Can you?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for violence and racial slurs commonly used during the period (Jap, Kraut, etc.)