The heart of Friday Night Lights meets the emotional resonance and nostalgia of My So-Called Life in this moving debut novel about tradition, family, love, and football.
As the high school football coach in his small, rural Maryland town, Dean is a hero who reorganized the athletic program and brought the state championship to the community. When he married Nicole, the beloved town sweetheart, he seemed to have it all—until his troubled wife committed suicide. Now, everything Dean thought he knew is thrown off kilter as Nicole’s death forces him to re-evaluate all of his relationships, including those with his team and his three children.
Dean’s eleven-year old son, Robbie, is withdrawing at home and running away from school. Bry, who is only eight, is struggling to understand his mother’s untimely death and his place in the family. Eighteen-year-old Stephanie, a freshman at Swarthmore, is torn between her new identity as a rebellious and sophisticated college student, her responsibility towards her brothers, and reeling from missing her mother. As Dean struggles to continue to lead his team to victory in light of his overwhelming personal loss, he must fix his fractured family—and himself. When a new family emergency arises, Dean discovers that he’ll never view the world in the same way again.
Transporting readers to the heart of small town America, Home Field is an unforgettable, poignant story about the pull of the past and the power of forgiveness.
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About the Author
Hannah Gersen was born in Maine and grew up in western Maryland. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her writing has been published in the New York Times, Granta, and The Southern Review, among others. Home Field is her first novel. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hannah Gersen's debut novel Home Field is billed as a combination of Friday Night Lights and My So-Called Life. That's quite a high bar to set, and Gersen clears it with room to spare. Dean is a successful high school football coach in a small Maryland town. He runs a terrific program, and is known and respected throughout the town. Years ago he married a young widow, Nicole, whose husband was a high school football hero. Nicole and her husband were high school sweethearts and had a young daughter, Stephanie, when he was diagnosed and died. Nicole suffers from depression, perhaps she never got over the loss of the love of her life. Dean was smitten with her and young Stephanie, and they married and had two boys of their own, Robbie and Bryan. As the story opens, Nicole commits suicide and is found by her eleven-year-old son Robbie. Stephanie is set to go away to college, and struggles with leaving her brothers and father to go so far from home. Robbie begins cutting class and acting out, and finally finds salvation by participating in the high school play. Bryan has spending more time with Nicole's sister and her family, devoutly religious people. Bryan finds solace in religion, much to Dean's concern. He feels that his sister-in-law is unduly influencing his young son. Coaching a successful high school football program is a time-consuming profession, and Dean comes to the conclusion that he needs to step down for the sake of his children. He also becomes involved with Robbie's school counselor, a woman he knew when she was a substitute teacher at his school. Stephanie is trying to find her way in the world, and Gersen really nails the feelings of a young woman adrift. She is grieving the loss of a mother she loved, feeling angry that her mother abandoned them all, and sad that her mother was suffering so. She also feels guilty that she has left her brothers behind. Reading this part of the story took me back to my own time going away to college, so vivid is the connection between Stephanie's experiences and most young women. Bravo to Ms. Gersen. Just when Dean thinks he is losing it all, an opportunity to temporarily coach the girls cross country track team falls in his lap. He misses football, and he forms a connection with the girls that gives him a sense of control and accomplishment he is lacking in his personal life. Gersen does a wonderful job with the setting and characters of her story. She has the small town atmosphere just right, and we care deeply about these people, even as we see them making mistakes. Dean in particular needs to learn the importance of verbal communication with his children. They need to talk about what happened to them, and he, like many men, has trouble with that. Home Field is an emotional, moving book that touched my heart. Gersen's ability to write so beautifully and realistically in the voices of Dean, Stephanie and Robbie is quite an accomplishment. I recommend Home Field to anyone who loves a good family story.
A Family Copes with a Loved One's Death HOME FIELD by Hannah Gersen is a book about the suicide of a loved one and how the survivors come to terms with the death. Dean is the celebrated high school football coach in a tiny rural community in western Maryland. He's the husband to an extremely depressed Nicole, stepfather to 19-year-old Stephanie, and father to 11-year-old Robbie and 8-year-old Bryan. After Nicole commits suicide, Dean is left searching for his place within his family and with his football team. Football is his life, and the reason he moved to such a small town. As Dean becomes immersed in the start of Fall football, his family takes a back seat while they struggle to make sense of their mother's death. Ronnie becomes belligerent, talking back and acting out at school. Bry tries to placate everyone and becomes mesmerized by his aunt's fanatical religion. Stephanie battles with wanting to stay at home, to ensure her brothers aren't overshadowed by their dad's focus on his team, and with her need to leave town and enjoy her independence as a college freshman. Though Dean encourages Stephanie to follow her dream of going away to school, he doesn't know how to help himself or his kids work through their pain. He's guilty that he had no clue that Nicole was ready to kill herself and sad that they had grown so far apart. If you're looking for a lighthearted story, this isn't the book for you, as it teems with unhappiness. However, if you are a character-driven reader, you'll enjoy the fully-developed characters and many subplots woven throughout the book. Situations and character reactions are realistic and somewhat poignant and reveal how each person hopes to break through their despair. The ending is a little weak, but overall the story is a good one. I would recommend HOME FIELD to book clubs that enjoy discussing themed or emotional topics and to readers who prefer the same. If You Like This, You May Also Like: THE OTHER WIDOW by Susan Crawford, TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane Moriarty, ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN by Wendy Walker, LISTEN TO ME by Hannah Pittard, THE LAKE SEASON by Hannah McKinnon * Read my other reviews on the Blue Moon Mystery Saloon blog. ** An e-galley was provided by William Morrow and Edelweiss for an honest review.