Book Reviews

Book Review: Home Again by Kristin Hannah – Familiar Plot that Still Draws Out the Tears

Perhaps it was just reading too many Kristin Hannah books too close together, including one with a remarkably similar basic premise as Home Again, but I had trouble with a book that should have been a winner.  In terms of being a tear-jerker, this is a 10 because I don’t care who you are, you will cry.  However, beyond that I found it to be a poignant but very predictable story that wasn’t quite realistic in the end.

Home Again is the story of two people who met while teenagers in a romance that was destined to break apart one way or another.  Angel DeMarco was from the wrong side of the tracks when he ran into Madeline Hilyard.  That didn’t stop them from having a romance that ended when she discovered she was pregnant. Despite all the promises in the dark, Angel took the money Maddy’s well-to-do father handed him, bought a motorcycle, and was never seen again.  Well, not quite true. He was seen again, on the big screen when an impromptu acting career took off making him one of Hollywood’s notorious bad boys.

Maddy, meanwhile, turned to Angel’s brother Francis when she didn’t want to get the abortion her father wanted her to. The two formed a strong bond as the years progressed and formed an awkward family unit to raise the daughter known as Lina.  Francis became the priest he always intended to be and settled back home where he could help Maddy.  Despite all of the obstacles, Maddy managed to become a renowned cardiologist while raising her daughter.

The book picks up their lives when all four of them are at a crossroads of sorts.  Maddy is dealing with Lina as a rebellious teenager, much like her father who she does not know.  She’s pretty much at a loss for how to deal with her, feeling much more comfortable between the walls of the hospital than the walls at home.  Francis is feeling the ache of the life he chose as a priest.  Although he has long been the only father figure in Lina’s life, he is having a crisis of faith and longing for the life he didn’t have with them.

Angel, meanwhile, is the catalyst for change.  He suffers a massive heart attack while partying and is rushed to a nearby hospital where he is told his lifestyle has put him in need of a heart transplant or he will die.  This is when he crosses paths with Maddy, Francis, and the life he turned his back on.

I could suspend disbelief at the coincidence of Angel ending up in the hospital where Maddy works.  Stranger things have happened.  Where I had trouble were all of the coincidences that followed.  I don’t want to reveal too much, but anyone with a brain can probably guess some of the events that will take place.  It made it hard to really buy into the rest of the story.  Couple that with the cliché of the Hollywood bad boy has a life-changing event that makes him re-think everything he’s done and the book falters quite a bit for me.  Perhaps if it hadn’t seemed so similar to Angel Falls which I had just finished reading, I would have felt a bit warmer to the story.

Hannah does a terrific job with certain aspects of the story.  Her depiction of a transplant survivor is terrific and begs the question about our souls and what’s imprinted on the very cells of our bodies.  Is a heart just an organ or does it carry a bit of us wherever it goes?  Can the same be said of any other organ?  This part of the story I thought was very well-done and handled quite well.  I also enjoyed reading about Francis’ crisis of faith which I thought would be something many priests would experience.

The characters are good, but there are no real surprises that come up.  Francis is perhaps the most interesting of the lot and Hannah seems to want him more in the background but he keeps putting himself in the forefront.  As far as the other three go, I found that their story is predictable in so many ways and it made it a bit disappointing.  I did invest in the characters and found myself bawling my eyes out as I was reading, but when I was done and looked back I couldn’t think that there was anything that really stood out and made them compelling.  They weren’t characters I felt like I would want to go back to ten years later and see how it all turned out for them.

While I did enjoy Home Again, it wasn’t a book I felt was so compelling that I would say don’t miss it.  If you’re looking for a good tear-jerker and haven’t read one of Kristin Hannah’s books in a while, this will suffice.  It wasn’t one of the best I’ve read from her although I wouldn’t say it’s one to avoid.