When she wrote the Echo Company series under the pseudonym of “Zack Emerson,” Ellen Emerson White became fascinated with the one-off character she created midway through—Rebecca Phillips, nurse, and antihero of Book #3— and decided to extend the series unofficially with a 5th, the review of which you are now reading.
The book’s 465 pages are divided into two parts: The War and The World. The former deals primarily with the rest of Rebecca’s tour of duty at the 63rd Evac hospital at Chu Lai. It is reminiscent of ‘Tis the Season in its details, though of course qualified by the events from that book and from Stand Down, as well. I won’t spoil it by revealing what happens, but needless to say, The War is not without its drama.
Part 2, “The World,” deals with Rebecca’s life once she returns home to Massachusetts, and it is perhaps the most gut-wrenching of all White’s writing so far. One cannot help but empathize with the characters’ feelings of hopelessness, their lack of direction, and their discomfort. “What,” you may ask, “happened with Michael?” with whom Rebecca was fostering a love interest by the end of the official series. Well, that’s something you may have to find out for yourself, and it becomes a central part of Rebecca’s travails in finding herself.
The Road Home is a departure in spirit—though not in characters—from the Echo Company series, which were primarily aimed at young boys and featured plenty of cursing and gunfire. Which isn’t to say that they weren’t poignant in and of themselves. This book, however, is light on action and filled to the brim with character drama, as White seeks to build—or rather, rebuild—her beloved characters.
You cannot help but feel melancholy after you’ve flipped the last page: not only was the book itself weighty, but I was sad to see it done. The Road Home probably isn’t as hard to find as its predecessors, but I think it’s gone out of print again (it came out in 1997). White has made no mention of any plans to extend it.