You Review: Be Safe, I Love You – Cara Hoffman

Reviewed by Tess van Brummelen

Due to an absent mother and a father struggling with depression, Lauren has always been her younger brother’s caregiver. As a mother, sister and friend to him, their bond is unbreakable. To be able to provide even better for the family, Lauren enlists in the army. Back home again on leave, Lauren has trouble adjusting to the changes her old life has undergone, including her brother Danny, who’s suddenly all grown up. In a spur of the moment decision, Lauren takes Danny to the cold, remote woods of Canada midwinter, where she desperately tries to teach him survival skills. Since her return though, Lauren has been acting differently, to the point of scary, and Danny starts to wonder if she’s still the same person she was before Iraq.

“And there in the rising heat and rush and pop of whole towns delicately changing into white and orange petals thin as a ghost’s tattered shawl, they might at last understand what that vow you took really means. What it means to be a guardian of freedom. To deploy, engage, and destroy.” -p.161/162

The closer to the end, the more suspense. What is Lauren trying to accomplish with Danny up north? Will companionship and love ultimately outweigh violence and hate?

“Open your eyes. Open your eyes. It’s beautiful here.” -p.282

Be Safe I Love You is a novel about the soldiers that never come home and the ones that do. A novel about the traumatising effects of war. A novel about women warriors at home and on the front lines.

Cara Hoffman wrote her book as an elegy for her brother ‘who taught me to survive the things he taught me, and for whom I am still waiting to come home’. Hoffman’s depiction of the lives of military families feels raw and personal. She certainly succeeds in shining a tiny, burning light on a situation that’s important yet unknown to many. The storyline does lack some depth and speed here and there, which distanced me from the characters and plot.

A unique and interesting bonus is the information on music Cara Hoffman, who studied classical voice, has woven into the story.

“The lights of the rig burned and bled to white, and before she closed her eyes, she could see the dunes out in the distance. Placid and silent and stretching on forever.” -p.4

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