Americas

Book Review

"Homefront"

"Homefront" is available on Amazon.

Tony Christini wondered why there were no anti-war novels published in the U.S. about its war in Iraq. So did his cohorts Mike Palecek and Andre Vltchek.

After all, doesn't this war and its implications need a fictional approach to reach readers who avoid non-fiction? Don't other cultures and peoples utilize the fictive approach to make political points? Indeed, haven't writers throughout history understood the power that fiction provides for a view too often unheard?

I suppose one could argue that there is such a thing as political fiction in the United States if novels about Washington corruption and chicanery were included, but there is little in that genre which considers the politics of U.S. extra-legislative movements. Given this dearth of literature, Christini, Palecek and Vltchek started a publishing venture to resolve the situation. The company, known as Mainstay Press (http://www.mainstaypress.org/), showcases more than a half dozen titles, most of them fiction. The Web site also features interviews about literature and politics.

"Homefront" is the first novel in a trilogy that takes on the Iraq War and the complicity of the common citizen. Set in the United States, the story is told through the words and thoughts of one family and individuals within their circle. A year after losing one son during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the novel presents the family's questions and doubts. Simultaneously, it carries on a conversation with the reader about the reasons for the young man's death.

Oftentimes, novels like "Homefront" are so political that they read more like a tract from some sect than like a novel. In other words, in some cases the politics render the flow of the story and its characters to be wooden-like props, thus making the story secondary, at best, to the politics. While there is no doubt that this book is very political, just like there is no doubt as to the author's politics, Christini manages to make "Homefront" quite readable. The story has its own compelling style that sweeps the reader into the minds and hearts of its characters.

The son's death proves to be a cathartic event in the life of the family and the individuals that make it up. The mother can't get away from the doubts she has regarding her first statement to the press where she declared, "Aaron (her son) died for all of us." It seems that within minutes of her utterance, she begins to wonder whether she should have said it. This is the question that the novel revolves around, and one that the author wants each of us to answer for ourselves.

Like Upton Sinclair's "King Coal" or even John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath," "Homefront" is part morality, part political outrage and part story. Taken from today's headlines, there are themes in this book that read like the evening news. However, the fiction format allows the writer (and the reader) to go beyond the soundbite, thereby transforming an ordinary U.S. family into an intellectually and emotionally complex creature.

The mother not only questions the complicity of her politician cousin, she also questions her own. The dead man's brother wonders how much impact the world of sports and its 'macho masculinity' had in creating the soldier his brother became. His sisters move from their very private worlds to the public sphere where nothing is certain but their own convictions.

It is the author's hope that readers will question their convictions as well. Is the U.S. public this complex? Or are they like so many docile creatures that think only within the parameters of what they are told? Are their concerns really only as deep as the next episode of their favorite television show or the next ball game? Christini thinks not. Otherwise, why bother writing the novel? Most folks involved in the anti-war movement agree with Christini. If not, they certainly wouldn't expend the energy it takes to go to meetings and marches.

Most politicians, on the other hand, seem to hold the opposite viewpoint. Why else would they continue to support and fund a war when poll after poll tells them that their constituents are not in agreement with it? If leading politicians don't consider the general public to be the simple creatures described above, then the only other possibility is that they hold the populace in even greater contempt than previously thought. Or perhaps it's just that the money from the plutocrats that really run this country is just so plentiful that any public or private scruples that politicians have is rendered dumb in its presence. The presence of amoral (if not immoral) power and greed, and their effects on those whom we choose to rule us is the subject of the second book in the trilogy, "Washburn."

"Homefront" is an overtly political and staunchly anti-war novel. This in itself is a rarity in today's world of publishing. Besides the aforementioned novels filled with Washington corruption and chicanery, Tom Clancy and a myriad of others publish works that justify and encourage the warmongers and their backers — all the while implying to the reading public that the world the imperialists made is the only real one, and one that not only deserves to exist, but is as permanent as the Himalayan mountains. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" has there been a novel for the U.S. market that so clearly addressed war from an oppositional viewpoint. "Homefront" is a noble attempt to utilize fiction to change reality.

Book Title: Homefront
Author: Tony Christini
Publisher: Mainstay Press
Publication Date: February 20, 2006
Pages: 208

This review was originally published on CounterPunch.org.