The Heart You Carry Home Summary and Reviews

The Heart You Carry Home

by Jennifer Miller

The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2015
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A novel about surviving on the home front, fathers and daughters, and the limits and limitlessness of love.

Becca Keller is no stranger to the way war can change a man. Her Vietnam vet father, King, has been more out of her life than in. Her mother boycotts her wedding because Becca is making the same mistakes she did - yoking herself to a man just back from battle. And Ben is different after this second tour. Within days of the wedding he turns dangerous, and Becca runs to the only person she has left. 

King, though, is heading West with his motorcycle buddies, out to a place they call Kleos. A mysterious desert compound ruled over by a guru-like commanding officer, it is a refuge for some soldiers, but might be the death of others. There, Becca will be faced with the possibility that she may not know the real damage in her loved ones' hearts. In finally seeing her father's demons, she might just be able to start with her husband on their own journey back to peace. 

The Heart You Carry Home lays bare the violence soldiers bring home, as one woman fights for the men in her life who have been scarred by different wars in disturbingly similar ways. It "combines great storytelling with social questions that are both as current and as old as war" (Karl Marlantes). And it mines the trials of generations of American families to find hope for the next.

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Some of the recent comments posted about The Heart You Carry Home:

Are you a war veteran or do you know a war veteran? If so, do you believe that war changes a person?
I live in a military town with a lot of career Navy veterans and my husband was also a veteran although I did not know him during that time. Since he never saw active duty, I don't think the war and his service had much impact on him. I have, ... - Sharlene

Do you agree with Becca's believe that "not all stories, not all feelings, were meant to see the light"? What kinds of stories do you think fall into, or should fall into, this category?
Having worked with veterans, I know firsthand how difficult it is for them to share some of their stories with those who have not experienced combat or life in a combat zone. This is exactly what I thought when King and Reno echange that look---this ... - Miznanner

Do you agree with Reno that there is not necessarily a correlation between the amount of violence in a story and the way it affects a person?
Every single person handles every single experience in a different manner, so yes I agree with Reno. - judithj

Do you see parallels between the soldiers in The Iliad and the current day? Is Achilles' relevant to current soldiers, or does it glamorizes warfare? How do you think the introduction of women into battle ranks changes this?
I have never read the Iliad so I can't really make the comparison. I think there are similarities between soldiers throughout history. War is always hell. - Sharlene

Do you think the experience of warfare is timeless, or do King and Ben have markedly different reactions?
Yes, warfare's experiences are timeless. Any one who has been in a war zone comes home with a whole different outlook on life. I think King's temperament was more volatile (with no apologies) than Ben's. I hope with proper medical help Ben can ... - judithj

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Miller offers an impressively fresh perspective on soldiers returning from war by delivering a memorable heroine...[W]ell done and worthwhile." - Booklist

"Strong, well-developed portraits of veterans' experiences and relationships." - Kirkus

"Passionate, atmospheric,The Heart You Carry Home is the work of a young writer full of energy and promise." - Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad and others

"Speaking as the daughter, as well as the wife, of a veteran, I can say this book packs an honest punch. The Heart You Carry Home gives voice to generations of soldiers and their families seeking understanding and forgiveness. A testimony to love's ultimate ability to heal even our most hidden wounds." - Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker's Children and The Baker's Daughter

"Here is a tale of family, community, love, and madness, as a woman who is both the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and wife of an Iraq veteran journeys to heal the heart-wounds of war. The Heart You Carry Home combines great story-telling with social questions that are both as current and as old as war. I read it in one sitting." - Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn

"A powerhouse of a novel. Miller captures the emotional minefield of veterans returning home from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan with vivid, engaging detail. This novel cuts right to the heart." - David Abrams, author of Fobbit, a 2012 New York Times Notable Book

"In Becca Keller, Miller has crafted a fierce heroine whom you'll eagerly follow across the country, into the depths of a madman's sanctum, and back into the light - stronger but forever changed. The Heart You Carry Home is a story about fathers and daughters, and how the legacy of war not only breaks families apart, but can pull them back together." - Joanna Smith Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

"An engrossing tale layered in mystery, told with compassion and - at the perfect moments - wit. Miller gives us a truthful look at the fallout from war, both today's wars and the conflict in Vietnam. A damn fine read." - Artis Henderson, author of Unremarried Widow

"With The Heart You Carry Home, Miller has crafted a thrilling, surprising, and mercilessly readable novel about the far-reaching effects of trauma, our crippling capacity for guilt, and the long road to forgiveness. Ultimately though, it's a novel about healing." - Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here, All About Lulu, and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

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Reader Reviews

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Sandra Hofsommer

Difficult Wars. A Difficult Book
Jennifer Miller's "The Heart You Carry Home" focuses on Becca Keller, her father King (a Viet Nam veteran), Ben a veteran of the Iraqi war and her husband of a few weeks, her mother and a number of King's ex Viet Nam veterans. Her mother and The novel focuses on how men and their wives deal with the wounded warriors with PTSD. Half of the novel deals with a veteran, CO Proudfoot, who has created a place where veterans can "find" themselves.

This is a powerful novel but also a difficult novel to follow and understand. The author focuses on contemporary characters, their problems and those of their families. Unfortunately I had trouble understanding the characters, the motorcycle crew, the language and the whole scenario.

I am well beyond someone who knows the language and the problems as well as the kinds of characters in the novel. This is not necessarily the problem of the writer. I believe that I am well out of the readers for whom this novel was focused on.
Thus I think this is a novel for contemporary and younger readers to whom it will certainly resonate.

My rating of the novel reflects that of a 74-year-old woman who has never had a family member involved in war.

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Jennifer Miller, is also the author of Inheriting the Holy Land: An American's Search for Hope in the Middle East. She holds a BA from Brown University, an MS in journalism from Columbia, and an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Men's Health, the Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, and others. She is a native of Washington, DC, and currently lives in Brooklyn with all the other writers.

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