Home Sweet Home: Book summary and reviews of Home Sweet Home by April Smith

Home Sweet Home

by April Smith

Home Sweet Home by April Smith
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2017
    368 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

From the widely praised author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey series and A Star for Mrs. Blake, this riveting epic drama follows the Kusek family from New York City to America's heartland, where they are caught up in the panic of McCarthyism, a smear campaign, a sensational trial, and, ultimately, murder.

Calvin Kusek, a WWII pilot and attorney, and his wife, Betsy, escape the 1950s conformity of New York City to relocate to a close-knit town in South Dakota. They settle on a ranch and Betsy becomes a visiting nurse, befriending a quirky assortment of rural characters. Their children, Jo and her brother Lance, grow up caring for animals and riding rodeo. Life isn't easy, but it is full and rewarding. When a seat in the State Assembly becomes available, Cal jumps at the chance to repay the community and serves three popular terms.

Things change when Cal runs for the U.S. Senate. The FBI investigates Betsy, and a youthful dalliance with the Communist Party surfaces to haunt the Kuseks. Mass hysteria takes over, inflamed by Cal's political enemies. Driven by fear and hate, their neighbors turn, condemning them as enemies and spies.

The American Dream falls apart overnight as the Kuseks try to protect their children from the nightmare that follows. The family is vindicated in a successful libel lawsuit, but the story  doesn't end there: years later, Lance Kusek and his wife and son are brutally attacked, and the mystery then unfolds as to who committed this coldblooded murder, and are they related to the stunning events of decades earlier?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Smith perceptively brings this dark period in U.S. history to light in her dramatic family saga based on a true story." - Booklist

"Smith illuminates the force of McCarthyism-generated fear in the Midwest and effectively personalizes it through the persecution the Kusak family endures for their liberal beliefs." - Publishers Weekly

"The author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey series (North of Montana) and A Star for Mrs. Blake successfully switches genre gears once again with this dramatic saga with a hint of mystery. Her fans won't be disappointed." - Library Journal

"A tragedy built on accumulating misunderstandings between people of different political persuasions should be riveting in this political season, but flat prose and a self-righteous tone make for a dreary read." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Melissa S. (Rowland, NC)

A Timely Story of family, hard work, political suspicion
"Home Sweet Home" is a novel based on the timeless theme of the American Dream. We follow a family through major life changes in the hopes of accomplishing the life they feel their family was meant to live. Who can't relate to that? The reader very quickly realizes this dream doesn't come easy. The midwest is an unforgiving, harsh, beautiful, breathtaking life that once bought into, becomes as ingrained in you as your DNA.
Smith uses straight forward language that engulfs the reader without he/she even realizing it. She very effectively bounces the reader from past to present without the reader ever feeling jolted.
The pervasive theme of Russian/Communist infiltration is spot on for today's reader! With the current political arena regarding Russian hacking and theories of presidential tampering by the Russian's, Smith's novel is even more relevant to her readers.
I would recommend this novel to all readers who love American life built on hard work, family, love and the pursuit of a more fulfilling existence. There's just enough suspense to keep the reading turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning!
Smith's novel is perfect for book club readings. She addresses societal issues about family, loyalty, government and justice. The discussion topics are endless!

Peggy A. (Morton Grove, IL)

Home Sweet Home--Not!
I found this novel by April Smith to be quite engrossing. The narrative pulls you forward into reading "just one more chapter". Not an easy thing to do during the busy holidays. What was especially interesting were the amazing parallels both cultural and political between our present day situation and the era of McCarthyism.
This is a book that reminds one why we read good literature. Although I recently read "Hillbilly Elegy", I was more profoundly moved by this story in its ability to underscore the divide between the "coastal elites" and ""rural middle Americans". This is a story that will resonate with me for awhile!

Nancy H. (Foster City, CA)

April Smith does it again
Home Sweet Home captivated my interest and attention from the very beginning and I did not want to put it down until I had finished. This tale from the McCarthy era with wonderful, relatable characters has many echoes in our society today. If you are looking for a book to get lost in, you will love Home Sweet Home.

Chris, Wisconsin

Disturbing, But Very Worthwhile
This book is a fictionalized retelling of events in the lives of a family who moved from the East Coast to the State of Washington during the 1950s, when the fear of Communism was rampant in the United States. The author has written her own version of the story, but it is a powerful recollection of the hatred that was instilled in people at that time, and the continuation of that hatred through the generations since. I found the book disturbing, but am very glad that I read it.

Judy W. (Tucker, GA)

Home Sweet Home by April Sweet
Exceptionally Outstanding are the best words I can find to describe "Home Sweet Home"! Without a doubt, this is one of the very best books I have read (and I'm very old; therefore, I've read many books). The author paints an interesting picture of this period in our history--early 1950s and McCarthyism. The story of the Kusek family revealed a side of bigotry and prejudice not often found in story lines of modern books. It was an eye opener for me to realize bigotry is abundant throughout our country--a sad observation. Ms. Smith's writing was masterful and portrayed how quickly people will jump to wrongful conclusions. It helped me to understand life and actions about the Western part of the country and why folks may still hold the same prejudices today. The story is well written, engaging and tragically based on the lives of a real family. Highly recommended for individuals or book clubs!!

Julia A. (New York, NY)

A tale for our times
"Home Sweet Home" is the first book by April Smith that I have read. Now I want to go to the library and get all her books. This one is a must read. The story is based loosely on a real series of events, but so fictionalized that anyone familiar with the details of the real story won't recognize it. As a backdrop, the book encompasses the history of the U.S. from the great depression, through World War II, the McCarthy era, the Kennedy years, the civil rights struggles, and up to 1985. Smith shows us the terrifyingly destructive power of hate, fear, innuendo, and political intrigue. By focusing on the Kusek family, she takes the reader through the events on a personal level, and provokes a wide range of emotions, no matter where the reader stands on the political spectrum. The horror of the 1985 crime that begins the book and is interspersed throughout the other parts of the narrative cannot be denied. Yet ultimately, the book is redemptive. The final section, taking place ten years after the crime, is appropriately called "Peace." It closes the story on a hopeful, uplifting note. This is a particularly appropriate book for our times, and I think it will be read and discussed for many years to come.

...40 more reader reviews

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More Information

April Smith is the author of six previous novels, including her first best seller, North of Montana. She is also an Emmy-nominated television writer and producer. She lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband.

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