This widely acclaimed novel about a female soldier who returns from Iraq haunted by a tragic mistake is “beautifully written...suspenseful and smart and tender in unexpected moments” (Miami Herald) and was named one of the 5 Best in Modern War Fiction by The Sunday Telegraph.
Before she enlisted, classically-trained singer Lauren Clay had been accepted to a prestigious music conservatory, but her family’s financial demands—worsened by her parents’ divorce and her father’s declining mental health—pushed her in another direction. Joining the army allowed Lauren to provide for her family—especially her younger brother Danny, whose quirky, heartfelt letters to her overseas are signed, be safe, I love you.
When she arrives home unexpectedly, it’s clear to her friends and family that something is profoundly wrong with Lauren. But her father is so happy to have her home that he ignores her odd behavior, as well as the repeated phone calls from an army psychologist. Things seem better when Lauren offers to take Danny on a trip to visit their mother upstate, but instead, she guides them into the glacial woods of Canada on a quest to visit the Jeanne d’Arc Basin, the site of an oil field that has become her strange obsession. What happens there will change Sergeant Lauren Clay’s family forever, as she must finally face what she saw, and did, in Iraq.
Be Safe I Love You is “a rare, illuminating glimpse into the distinctive experience and psyche of a female vet” (Boston Globe); “a riveting suspense story and a frank portrayal of war’s psychic damage” (Ms. Magazine); and “a painful exploration of the devastation wrought by combat even when the person returns from war without a scratch...this book is a reminder that art and love are all that can keep us from despair” (The New York Times Book Review).
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Cara Hoffman is the author of the critically acclaimed novels So Much Pretty, Be Safe I Love You, and now, Running. She lives in New York City.Review:
“A finely tuned piece of fiction . . . Be Safe I Love You is a painful exploration of the devastation wrought by combat even when the person returns from war without a scratch. The story—written with such lucid detail it's hard to believe the main character is an invention—suggests the damage starts long before the soldier reports for duty. . . . In crystalline language that conveys both the desolation of the Iraqi desert and the north country of New York State . . . this book is a reminder that art and love are all that can keep us from despair.” (Alissa J. Rubin The New York Times Book Review)
“In so many ways, we still think of warfare and soldiering as male endeavors. The plight of the female soldier remains largely out of view — in print media, on television news, even in fiction and film. Through Lauren, Cara Hoffman’s thoroughly researched and carefully crafted heroine, Be Safe I Love You illuminates the distaff side of military service and the ways that life in uniform are at once different and, at times, uncannily similar for men and women. Toward the end of this fine novel, Lauren finds a new life for herself based on her old passions, but Hoffman doesn’t give us the sense that she’s fully healed. Rather, she is, in her own way, soldiering on, a woman forever changed. . . . ‘She knew now that the difference between never and always was small,’ Hoffman writes. ‘Never and always are separated by a wasp’s waist, a small sliver of safety glass, one bead of sweat; separated by the seven seconds it takes to exhale the air from your lungs, to make your body as still as the corpse you are about to create.’” (The Washington Post)
“Beautifully written and unflinching in its honesty . . . [Be Safe I Love You] is a penetrating social critique: Hoffman paints a vivid and nuanced portrait of post-traumatic stress disorder and raises questions about class divisions (the working class being more directly affected by American warfare than anyone else). . . . A terrific story, suspenseful and smart and tender in unexpected moments, but it’s also a call to action, a heartfelt demand for us to pay closer attention to the costly fallout of violence.” (Miami Herald)
“For those of us never deployed into active duty, it is difficult to fathom the adrenaline-fueled combination of terror and anger that combat instills. We only see the aftermath, when soldiers return home, forever changed, trying to connect with a world where everyone seems flawed and fragile and uncomprehending. . . . In prose that is both powerful and poetic, Hoffman (So Much Pretty) paints a searing portrait of PTSD and the disconnect of the returning vet amid the well-meaning but clueless. . . . Even more compelling is the novel’s rare, illuminating glimpse into the distinctive experience and psyche of a female vet. Hoffman challenges us to imagine how extraordinarily difficult it must be to reconcile the innate protective instincts of the caregiver with a culture of violence and orders to kill. Yet she does that beautifully and poignantly, without destroying our hope for redemption and healing.” (The Boston Globe)
“It would be a mistake to understand Be Safe, I Love You only as a war novel. This is also a book about broken families and class and the impossible choices the working poor are too often forced to make. . . . Deeply moving and gorgeously written — raw in some places, tender in others. Lauren’s vulnerability and torment are elegantly rendered.” (Roxane Gay for Buzzfeed)
“Hoffman dazzled me (and many others) with her 2011 So Much Pretty . . . Highly recommend.” (Washingtonian.com)
“There are a lot of reasons I loved Be Safe I Love You: the complex main character of Lauren, the gorgeous descriptions, the thread of mystery weaving deftly through the story. But most of all I loved it because it’s a brutal and harsh look at the difficulties of coming home after war, of trying to fit back into an old life, a mold, when you don’t fit into your own skin. It’s about losing yourself and finding yourself all over again. It is, quite simply, luminous.” (Bookriot.com)
“Tense and stunning . . . exactly what a war novel should be: not a story about battles and guns and machismo, but a tale of refreshing honesty about the harm war does to us all, women, men and children alike, not only in battle, but at home.” (Helen Benedict The Guardian (UK))
“A riveting suspense story and a frank portrayal of war’s psychic damage.” (Ms. magazine)
“Hoffman’s second novel is a fierce and nuanced tribute to women warriors.” (BBC, 10 Best Books for Spring)
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