Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman




Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.
She had been naked for less than ten seconds when the snow began to feel hot. Her body, pale and lean and strong, biceps and thighs banded with black tattoos, lay basking against the glacial ice; a snow angel overcome by shadows and lights, calm and awed in whatever seconds remained. ~ Opening of Be Safe I Love You


Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Fiction; 289 pgs

Lauren Clay has just returned to her home in upstate New York after completing her tour of duty in Iraq. Her friends and family cannot be more excited to have her home again. The life Lauren left behind is not quite the same as it once was. Her boyfriend has acclimated to college life, her dad has gotten back on his feet after years of suffering from Severe Depression, and her brother can't seem to put down his cell phone. There is a lot that has not changed as well in her hometown, and yet nothing quite seems the same for Lauren. Her own experiences in Iraq color the way she sees the ordinary world around her--and she feels herself caught between the two, not really in either place.

Cara Hoffman takes the reader into the mind of one woman's struggle returning to regular society after having been in an extremely hostile one, as well as having to deal with what happened in Iraq. She also touches on how others in the veteran's life are impacted. The story is told from multiple perspectives (always third person), although the main focus is on Lauren. The author takes us from the present to the past throughout, the reader learning what Lauren's life was like before she went to Iraq, to the woman she became after. Much of her early experiences shaped who she would become. When her mother abandoned them and her father fell into a deep depression, she was the one who cared for her brother and father. It was because of that sense of obligation she passed up on going to a prestigious music institute and joined the military. She needed money to support her family.

I like the subtle escalation of Lauren's state of mind and behaviors as the novel progresses. It's very natural. It's clear she is really struggling with her experiences in Iraq as well as falling back into "normal" life. I wanted so much for her to open up and talk to one of the many characters who themselves were veterans, although of different wars. P.J. most of all. I think he would have understood the most. It's hard though, to open up to someone who hasn't been through exactly what you have--you don't think they would understand. Lauren certainly didn't think they would.

I found the relationship between Lauren and Shane, her high school boyfriend, interesting--how different they were, especially after Lauren's return. They both had once been of one mind, or at least close to it--and now they are very different. Their philosophies of life are not the same. I could see that with Lauren and other characters as well--with her best friend Holly and her music teacher, Troy, who himself was a veteran. Hoffman does an excellent job of examining many facets of relationships between a returning vet and their family and friends.

Of all the characters, I most liked Danny.  There is an innocence about him, and yet it's clear he is used to adapting to his environment. He loves his sister and will do anything for her. Lauren has been a mother figure to him most of his life. He is the one person she most wants to protect--and build up to be strong.  She felt guilty for abandoning him when she joined the service and it shows in her actions when she returns.

There are many war stories out there, but not many that deal with women who have been to war. Cara Hoffman does not gloss over the realities of what her main character faced in Be Safe I Love You nor the impact it had on Lauren. She also paints a very harsh but true portrait of just how poor mental health evaluations and services are for returning veterans. While the novel got off to a slow start for me, I found it to be well worth reading. 

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Cara Hoffman, and her work, please visit the author's website.

Source: I purchased both the e-copy and print copy for my own reading pleasure.


© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

32 comments:

  1. I read this one as well Wendy and thought it was pretty good.

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    1. I remember reading your review, Diane. I think you might have been the one who caused me to buy this one. :-)

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  2. I can only imagine how it would feel to come back from a place like that. We felt like foreigners in the US when we returned from France. I really like that this is told from a female perspective.

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    1. Kathy - Me too. It must be so hard. I liked the female angle to the story too. You so rarely books like this with female leads.

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  3. What a wonderful review! This sounds terrific -- yet another title to add to my list. :-)

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  4. Great review - I'm adding this one to my to-read list. Happy New Year, Wendy!

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    1. Carrie - Thank you! I think it is worth reading if you get the chance. Happy New Year to you as well!

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  5. I'd definitely keep reading to find out why she's naked in the snow! Sounds like the author goes deep inside her character's mind, which I always enjoy.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment.
    Sandy @ TEXAS TWANG.

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  6. Great review. I'm interested in this one.

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  7. I loved your review, and now I have decided I must read this one. I've been seeing it on Vine...and hesitating. I am not a big fan of "war stories," but a woman coming back after war brings a unique perspective...I haven't come across many books written with a woman as the returning veteran.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Laurel-Rain - Thanks! There really isn't much war talk in the novel when looking at it in its entirety, if that helps. I hope you like this one if you do give it a try. :-)

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  8. Great review! This sounds interesting and touches on something I've always wondered about. How do you go to war and then come back and grocery shop ever Tuesday? Or do laundry or whatever mundane task that life throws at you? That's an interesting teaser. I have no idea why she could be naked in the snow but she doesn't seem to be hating it. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Katherine - Exactly. All those simple every day tasks we take for granted . . . it puts things in an entirely different perspective.

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  9. I have been on the fence on this book. I did like the intro.

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    1. Nise' - I imagine it isn't a book for everyone.

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  10. An author I want to try. I think I have one of her other books on my shelf.

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    1. Stacy - This was my first by the author, but I hear her first book is quite good too.

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  11. Sounds like a great read! I cannot imagine what it must be like for a soldier returning home and getting used to things and seeing how many things might have changed or how other people may have changed. One for the list!

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    1. Iliana - I can't imagine either. For many, I imagine their entire world view has shifted.

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  12. Great review, Wendy! This sounds like both a great and moving read. Will have this to the wish list.

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    1. Melody - It was very moving. I hope you get a chance to read it.

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  13. That's quite an opening! I'd keep reading. This looks like an interesting book. Thanks for your review!

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    1. Monica - It hooked me right away. I am glad I kept reading. :-)

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  14. I had thought about picking this one up. It seems a topic worth pursuing.

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    1. Susan - It's very relevant to today. I hope you like it if you do decide to read it.

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  15. Considering what we ask our military to do, it should be imperative that we put more effort into their mental, emotional, and physical health issues when they return home. Books that make us more aware of the difficulties play an important role.

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    1. Janclair - I agree. There really should be more services available for our military who are returning from combat zones. I read a book a few years ago by a soldier who didn't believe in PTSD, and that still bothers me. It's attitudes like that which contributes to the high suicide rates among our soldiers.

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