Home Front Lines
At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Betty Anne Johnson is an African American military wife and mother stationed at an airbase outside of Washington, DC. Sisters Lola, Chita, and Rosita are beautiful and proud Montero family members in Matanzas, Cuba, coping with Castro’s cruel socialism and the brutal Russian military occupiers. The novel unfolds through parallel stories of the American and Cuban women learning about the monstrous nuclear threat while navigating jobs, husbands, children, lovers, racism, and treacherous politics.
Soon both sets of heroines decide that the safety of their children is all-important and take steps to send them as far as they can from likely target sites. They must hurry. As Chita says in one of Prescott’s many great lines, “By the time the dog gets off the porch it will be too late.” A snooty officer’s wife, a Japanese reporter who is not as she seems, and a conflicted Russian are among the many interesting secondary characters. A hushed-up deadly nuclear accident in the US and a missing younger brother to the Montero sisters add more complexity.
Prescott’s descriptions of daily life around the U.S. airbase and in dilapidated Cuba all feel true. Her prose and plotting are spare but effective, and the storylines, character development, and settings never bog down. In a few places, the fast pacing creates problems in this short novel. The briefly stated cause of the nuclear accident is unclear and improbable. Some of the conflicts between spouses deserve deeper treatment. Overall, Home Front Lines is an unusual rendering of a dangerous time and will engage readers from its first page to the “thriller” ending.