Christmas is a nostalgic time of year. There is no other holiday that tugs at the heartstrings quite like Christmas. Stories and songs have been written about the longing for home and family at Christmas time. When I think about the stories and songs written about being home “for the holidays” it seems that many of them were written during wartime, especially World War II.
Home and Away by author Dean Hughes is one such story. Set against the backdrop of the closing years of World War II, Home and Away tells the story of the Hayes family, primarily from the point of view of 16-year-old Dennis interspersed with oldest son Glen, who is serving in the Army in Europe and who would like nothing better than to be home with his family.
Money is tight for the Hayes family, as it was for many small town families during the war. Norma Hayes, the family matriarch tries hard to provide a nice holiday for her family, and Dennis wants not only to help her, but also to provide a nice holiday for her. The story follows Dennis through the usual teenage challenges, as it explores his relationships with each of his parents, and theirs with each other. It also explores the different family members’ reactions to the stresses of having a son away fighting in the war. It also examines the differing attitudes and opinions of their friends, associates and fellow townspeople regarding the war
In the chapters where we see things from Glen’s point of view, we learn of the sadness and fears of a lonely soldier, away from his family, compounded by the uncertain death of a fellow soldier and friend. From Glen’s point of view, war is decidedly unglamorous, a sharp contrast to the attitudes “back home.” Dennis is repeatedly reminded by classmates, by his employer and by others in town that those soldiers are heroes and every good American boy wants to go kill the enemy. He believes he needs to enlist as soon as he is old enough, but after Glen is wounded, Dennis is forced to re-evaluate his position and rethink enlistment.
Home and Away has a definite nostalgic feel to it, and reminds me of novels written in that era. The author, Dean Hughes, who has published more than 100 books, also wrote a fiction series set during World War II that this book reminded me of.
This is a relatively short novel and a sweet addition to your Christmas library. My only disappoint with this book was that I wished it had gone on longer. I would have liked to see “what happened next” and how things turned out for the Hayes family.
Home and Away by Dean Hughes is available in Hardcover, Kindle and Audio editions through Amazon.com.