Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman
Published by Simon & Schuster on 2014-04-01
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, War & Military
Source: Simon and Schuster
Lauren Clay has returned from a tour of duty in Iraq just in time to spend the holidays with her family. Before she enlisted, Lauren, a classically trained singer, and her brother Danny, a bright young boy obsessed with Arctic exploration, made the most of their modest circumstances, escaping into their imaginations and forming an indestructible bond. Joining the army allowed Lauren to continue to provide for her family, but it came at a great cost. When she arrives home unexpectedly, it’s clear to everyone in their rural New York town that something is wrong. The New York Times Book Review says, “writes with a restraint that makes poetry of pain,” Be Safe I Love You is a novel about war and homecoming, love and duty, and an impassioned look at the effects of war on women—as soldiers and caregivers, both at home and on the front lines.
I received this book for free from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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I’ve had Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman on my radar for a while but it was a twitter exchange between two bloggers that I trust that had me pulling it out finally to dive in. The story here is deceptively simple: a young woman from a small town escapes a life of poverty by enlisting and, by enlisting, is able to help her brother and her father financially. Little did I know, however, how quickly the story would move on from that into something much deeper and of more impact.
In Be Safe I Love You, Hoffman switches voices from that of Danny, a young boy who writes emails to his sister from home (and pretends that she is on a fantastic vacation instead of in Iraq) and Lauren, the young woman to whom the emails are being written. While we don’t see much of the Lauren of Iraq, we do see what has become of that young woman after she has finished her tour of duty and returned home to pick up the pieces of her life. It doesn’t take much to imagine that, while on the surface things may seem okay, there are some deeper issues that need to be worked out.
What I appreciated the most in Be Safe I Love You was how sympathetic and delicate Hoffman was in talking about Lauren’s changes in behavior and thinking. Being away from home is already enough of a change to cause a feeling of displacement when you get back to your hometown, but even more so, being away in order to do and see things that happen in war is even more traumatic. Then, there are the other issues which are slowly explained over the course of the story.
I don’t want to give away too much, because I think this is a very valuable read and should be explored. While I’ve read quite a few books dealing with traumatic situations, I’ve never read anything quite like Be Safe I Love You and I think that it is a book that will help open the eyes of those who haven’t enlisted (like myself) or seen situations like those described in the book.
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