Title: Back Home
Author: Julia Keller
ISBN: 9781606840054
Pages: 194 pages
Publisher/Date: Egmont USA, c2009.

“When your dad comes home,” my mother went on, “he’s going to be different, okay? He was hurt really, really bad, and he–” She stopped. Then she went on.
There are things you hear that, once you hear them, just keep traveling through you forever, like sunlight through a windowpane. Like it’s some sort of natural process. They don’t stop. So you’re never really not hearing them, ever again.
“He doesn’t have one of his legs anymore,” my mother said, “and he doesn’t have one of his arms either.” She was saying these things in a strange calm voice like they were normal to say, like they were ordinary things. Like checking off items on a list for the store. “But he’s going to be okay. He’ll get better. They’re going to give him a new leg and a new arm, and then he’ll be able to get around and do things and play with you.” (9-10)

But for Rachel Browning, life is anything but ordinary when her father returns from Iraq. Her dad wasn’t even a real soldier, just a public-relations director for a power company who spent time serving in the National Guard. It’s not like he killed people for a living. But he’s the one who was injured and suffered a traumatic brain injury and became a double amputee. Rachel can’t get used to her father’s lack of initiative to get better, and she looses friends as they become embarrassed over her situation.

Julia Keller wrote Back Home after doing a news story about traumatic brain injuries. Readers will learn the difficulties of trying to make a family whole again after war tears them apart. The story lends a quiet dignity to the problem of brain injuries and the family members who suffer as much as the injured, just in different ways. The progression of time works, preventing Keller from getting bogged down in the daily details. The narrator’s matter of fact tone also works in the story, encouraging readers to form their own sympathies towards the characters, whether it’s the father, mother, or children they feel the most about. A wonderful, heart-felt read, that explores everything involved.

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