Publishers Weekly on bestseller April Smith’s Home Sweet Home: “Smith’s terrific new novel opens with a brutal 1985 attack on a family in a small South Dakota town, then flashes back to 1950 when the husband (a WWII pilot) and his wife first left New York City with their two small children for a new life in Rapid City, Iowa. … Smith illuminates the force of McCarthyism-generated fear in the Midwest and effectively personalizes it through the persecution the Kusak family endures for their liberal beliefs. The author also skillfully ties together the two time periods, avoiding melodrama.”
Against the backdrop of America's heartland, this stunning epic drama follows the Kusek family over fifty years, through relocation from metropolis to prairie, the panic of Communism and McCarthyism, a smear campaign, a dramatic trial, and, ultimately, murder. On Christmas Eve, 1985, Jo Kusek discovers her brother and his family have been savagely attacked. The wife has been killed, father and son barely alive. How did this happen? Cal, Jo's father, was a World War II pilot and an attorney. Betsy, Jo's mother, was a worker's advocate. In 1950, they escaped the political hysteria of New York City, and relocated to a close-knit town in South Dakota. Cal became a cattleman, Betsy a nurse. Jo and her younger brother, Lance, were inseparable. A seat in the State Assembly became available and Cal jumped at the chance to serve the community that had taken them in. Life was full and rewarding. Things change when Cal runs for US Senate. His campaign threatens the local triumvirate of power that will do anything to stop him. The FBI investigates Betsy, and a youthful dalliance with the Communist Party surfaces to haunt the Kuseks and divide the town. Driven by fear and hate, the Kuseks' neighbors condemn them as enemies and spies. Their American Dream falls apart overnight and becomes an agonizing nightmare. And although they are vindicated in a successful libel lawsuit, the story doesn't end there: years later, Lance Kusek, his wife and son, are violently assaulted, and the mystery then unfolds as to who could have committed this coldblooded act. Is it the result of the events decades earlier? As her loved ones hover between life and death, Jo Kusek becomes our witness to one of the most brutal periods in American history.
After losing her son in World War I, small-town librarian Cora Blake is surprised over a decade later to receive a letter from the U.S. government inviting her to go to Europe to visit his grave as part of a 'Gold Star Mother' tour. Looking forward to the adventure, Cora also hopes that she and the other mothers will be able to find the closure that has eluded them for so long. A chance encounter with an embittered journalist gives her the opportunity to tell her story to the world and leads her to discover some unexpected truths about the long-term legacy of the war.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
MEMORANDUM [TRUSTED AGENTS ONLY]
TO SAC Robert Galloway, Los Angeles Field Office
FROM Special Agent Dennis Rizzio, FBI LEGAT, Rome
SUBJECT Special Agent ANA GREY
LOCATION Siena, Italy
TARGET NICOLI NICOSA, head of successful coffee import business. Suspected mafia involvement.
CONTACT CECILIA MARIA NICOSA, wife of Nicoli Nicosa. Popular socialite. Claims to be Special Agent Grey's sister.
THE MISSION Special Agent Grey to make close contact with Cecilia Maria Nicosa. Penetrate family. Investigate disappearance of mafia operative, LUCIA VINCENZA, Nicosa's mistress. Gather intelligence on Nicosa's possible ties to cocaine trafficking.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES Special Agent Grey will arrive during Il Palio, a famous horse race and time of high tension in the city. Violent outbreaks among rival "contradas "(neighborhoods) are common.
WARNING: THE SOUTHERN MAFIAS HAVE BEEN MAKING STRONG INROADS IN THIS PART OF ITALY. MANY ENEMIES GO "WHITE SHOTGUN." THEY DISAPPEAR.
UPDATE Cecilia Maria Nicosa has been kidnapped and their sixteen year-old son, Giovanni, severely beaten. Nicoli Nicosa suspicious of FBI involvement. Special Agent Grey to exercise extreme caution.