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One of the Five Best Modern War Novels.
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.
Beautifully written and unflinching in its honesty, Cara Hoffman’s provocative second novel offers a window into events we’d prefer to see less clearly...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). Be Safe I Love You is 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... Hoffman proves that words are often the real tools of survival in this flawed but still often golden world.
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.’
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.
Hoffman’s second novel is a fierce and nuanced tribute to women warriors
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.
A searing, unforgettable, and beautifully written tale about the corrosive effects of war on the psyche, a contemporary version of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried with a female protagonist.
A riveting suspense story and a frank portrayal of war’s psychic damage.
Hoffman does for upstate New York what Faulkner did for the American South; she makes the setting come alive with a power that transforms Watertown into character in and of itself, imbuing the novel with a mythical, regional realism.
Be Safe I Love You is a potent reminder of the far-reaching damage that people do in the name of power, oil and God.
Excellent . . . describes the troubled homecoming of U.S. Army Sergeant Lauren Clay to Watertown, N.Y., from a tour of duty in Iraq. . . . Hoffman fills her tight narrative with an ominous sense of imminent violence. . . . [a] haunting page turner
A brave, intelligent and unflinching war novel...Hoffman’s prose is near perfect: intense and imaginative, each sentence heavy with meaning. She balances the tightrope of not flinching away from violence, but also not lovingly describing it. War is never glamourised.
Be Safe I Love You is haunting and unforgettable and, best of all, burrows deep into the mind of a female warrior. It’s an important story readers should read and heed.