Title: Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Women’s Fiction
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Larkin Bennett has always known her place, whether it’s surrounded by her loving family in the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest or conducting a dusty patrol in Afghanistan. But all of that changed the day tragedy struck her unit and took away everything she held dear. Soon after, Larkin discovers an unexpected treasure—the diary of Emily Wilson, a young woman who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Union in the Civil War. As Larkin struggles to heal, she finds herself drawn deeply into Emily’s life and the secrets she kept.
The only thing more dangerous to Emily Wilson than a rebel soldier is the risk of her own comrades in the Union Army discovering her secret. But in the minds of her fellow soldiers, if it dresses like a man, swears like a man, and shoots like a man, it must be a man. As the war marches on and takes its terrible toll, Emily begins to question everything she thought she was fighting for.
Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes is a compelling novel that features dual timelines.
In the present, Larkin Bennett is struggling with severe PTSD following her final tour in Afghanistan. Medically discharged from the Army, she has returned home to stay with her beloved Grams while she tries to recover from the loss of her best friend, Sarah Faber, whose death she feels responsible for. Larkin finds solace in a civil war era diary that was given to her by Sarah. While reading the diary, she becomes obsessed with searching for other women with unconventional wartime service. Despite the diary’s distraction, Larkin continues to suffer from debilitating nightmares, guilt, self-loathing and anger control issues. She is also self-medicating with alcohol and ignoring the advice of her therapist. Will connecting with Sarah’s estranged brother Zach help her comes to terms with her devastating loss?
In 1861, the Civil War has just begun and Emily Wilson’s father and older brother David enlist in the Union Army. She worries about their safety and she finds comfort in writing in her diary. Emily and her younger brother Ben eventually leave their Indiana farm and she makes the unusual decision to masquerade as a man in order to fight alongside her brother. As the months pass, Emily revels in the freedom she receives from her disguise. But as she, Ben and their fellow soldiers go into battle, she finally begins to realize exactly what she is fighting for. And like Larkin in the present, Emily discovers transitioning back into civilian life does not mean she leaves her wartime experiences behind her.
Today We Go Home is a poignant novel with a thought-provoking storyline. Larkin’s post-war experiences are realistically portrayed. It is absolutely heart-wrenching to witness her struggles to recover from her survivors guilt and PTSD. Emily’s story springs vibrantly to life through her diary entries and chapters written from her perspective. The novel is extremely well-written and researched is impeccably. The story is quite fascinating and Kelli Estes highlights the struggles that women face during and after military service. I truly enjoyed and highly recommend this informative and engrossing novel.