Lauren Clay is returning home from Iraq for good, just in time to surprise her dad and little brother, Danny, for Christmas. But there’s something off about Lauren, enough so that her friends become worried about her. She claims to be normal, to be adjusting to civilian life, but what really happened to her during her last days in Iraq? Why has an army psychologist been trying to get in touch with her? And is it possible that Lauren could be a danger to herself or someone else?
A gorgeous, luminous novel about the difficulties of coming home from war, Be Safe I Love You is about Lauren, who is damaged by her experiences in Iraq, and her relationships with those who love and care for her.
Every once in awhile a book comes around that takes my breath away. One whose beauty knocks me off my feet, whose gorgeousness I simply can’t put into words. Today, that book is Be Safe I Love You. Just know that I am going to try and discuss what it is I loved about this book, but that I am not going to be able to do it justice. It was just that amazing.
Hoffman takes many different threads and weaves them into a mesmerizing narrative tale in Be Safe I Love You. In the hands of a less capable writer, it might be a jumbled mess, but Hoffman produces a beautiful storyline with rich characters and isn’t afraid to take on serious issues on every page of this novel. Lauren, in particular, is a fully realized character who is at the center of this novel. It’s clear that she’s damaged by her experiences in Iraq when the story begins; what isn’t so obvious is just how badly. As Lauren returns home and tries to fit back into a world she now longer recognizes, she becomes an “other,” a person standing on the outside looking in, rather than fully feeling and experiencing what she’s going through.
Danny is the bright spot for Lauren in Be Safe I Love You, the highlight of her otherwise disappointing childhood. It’s the thought of Danny, and particularly his letters, which punctuate the novel’s chapters, that got Lauren through Iraq, and in many ways, that is helping her now that she’s back home. But that’s dangerous, to depend on a person for your sanity. As Lauren begins to lose touch and readers begin to fear what she is capable of, they begin to see just how far gone she is.
Hoffman discusses such varied subjects as drilling for oil, the healing abilities of music, and lack of support for veterans in Be Safe I Love You. She isn’t afraid to shy away from the difficult subjects, and her commentary is very well done. It’s hard to really put into words how powerful Hoffman’s writing is. Her words pack punches at the same time they’re soft and comforting; her narrative ability is remarkable, and readers will find themselves lost in the world she creates. Her descriptions are vivid and brutal, stinging the reader with how real they feel. It’s an amazing gift, and one that Hoffman wields deftly.
There is much, much more I can say about Be Safe I Love You, but as this is a book best read without knowing too much about it, I’ll stop here. I don’t know how many more superlative adjectives I can use to describe this book without this review devolving into a puddle of gush, so instead, I’ll just say that you should do yourself a favor and pick up this book as soon as possible.
Other books by Cara Hoffman: