Today We Go Home, by Kelli Estes, tells the powerful story of two women separated by two hundred years but connected by their experiences. Emily Wilson lives during the time of the American Civil War. After losing her father and eldest brother to the Confederate guns, she and her younger brother enlist in the same regiment. But Emily must hide her womanhood in order to serve her country and follow in her father's footsteps. In the present time, Larkin Bennet has returned home from her second deployment in Afghanistan, bruised in both mind and body. After losing her best friend to a suicide bomber, Larkin must find something to live for. She finds it in Emily’s diary. The two women discover their strength and purpose as they wade their way through war, loss, trauma, and life in a man’s world.
I knew I was going to love this novel when very quickly tears were brought to my eyes. Estes’ writing is powerful, moving, and incredibly real. While I don’t have PTSD, Larkin’s struggles were written so well I forgot for the majority of the novel she wasn’t a real person. But of course, she is real, in a sense. She, and Emily, are representatives of all the women who have served their country. I thought the description of Emily’s trauma was well done and suited the time period. As Larkin discovers, PTSD was not diagnosed as such back then and there was little support for it. But in both cases, the women are able to find a purpose to focus on and get the help they needed.
The flip between the 1800s and present time was flawless. I loved the way Larkin would read a diary entry, and the following chapter would typically be Emily’s point of view version of the entry or just leading up to it. I have read some novels where the flip is quite clunky, but am happy to say this is not one of those novels.
Overall, I must say I’ve read few novels as powerful as Today We Go Home. I don’t think it’s too “feminist” for anyone to enjoy, as I worry some may think the theme is pandering to recent events. Regardless of whether Larkin is a man or woman, or if we focus on Emily or Jesse, the story is about two soldiers who find their strength in an extremely volatile time and place. I applaud Estes’ research and her way of making sure that no one woman’s story was left unsaid through her encouragement to the reader. With flawless writing, relatable characters, and an important message, Today We Go Home is a must read.
And I feel it necessary to thank those who serve their country, both men and women. But especially those who often get overlooked. As Estes says in her parting words: “See her. Hear her. Thank her.”