Hello, people of the internet!
I’ve been keeping to my New Year’s Resolutions and have already read one book that I bought a year ago. And let me tell you this: I can’t believe I have been holding off reading this book even for a minute!
Title: Be Safe I Love You
Author: Cara Hoffman
Publication Date: 2014
Publisher: Virago Press
Lauren Clay has returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq in time to spend Christmas with her father and her adored younger brother, Danny, whom she has looked out for since their mother left them years before.
But amidst the joy of reunion, Lauren’s family and friends are reluctant to acknowledge that something isn’t right…
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why I decided to leave reading this until another time. My TBR pile hasn’t stopped me from reading before and the blurb still intrigued me. I guess that I thought there were more intriguing books to read before reading this one.
Biggest mistake ever.
I haven’t read about mental illness in soldiers before, but I have heard about some with male soldiers. This is the first book I have read, or even heard about, about mental illness in a female soldier. I would say that the protagonist being female helped me to connect more with her, since I personally connect more with female lead characters, but regardless of her gender, Lauren is fleshed out with both positive and negative traits. She feels like a real person to me: complex enough to add more depth to her character, but still able to identify with her as well.
The other characters are well-written too. I never got mixed up with who’s who and, even with characters who didn’t add much to the plot, they still added to the whole atmosphere to the setting. The only problem I had with the book in terms of character is the amount of swearing. Not that I personally get put off with swearing in stories, I find that swearing can help add character and suspense if done correctly. It’s just that it felt swearing had a hit and miss effect in this book. Sometimes it added to the tension and it helped develop character, but there were times when it felt it wasn’t needed; it would have read just fine without it. I will say that people who don’t like swearing can find this very off-putting.
As for the plot itself, it is very slow-paced. The majority of the book is Lauren interacting with the people in her hometown and how she has changed, as well as Lauren herself and various other characters explaining what life for Lauren was like before she went to Iraq. This did a lot to add depth to all the characters, especially Lauren, but the plot doesn’t move forward until two-thirds into the book. From there, it quickens the pace enough to not feel forced and it all concludes in a small yet perfect way. This plot is beautifully written and timed well, but the time switches can be a little confusing. There are times when the chapter begins with Lauren after she returns from Iraq then a sentence later, it changes from Lauren as a child and remains focused on that time period. I had to read back a few times when that happened because I was confused as to what was happening currently and what had already happened to the characters. I feel it could have been altered slightly to avoid that, but apart from that, the way the plot was written worked well.
What I love the most about this book is how cleverly written Lauren’s obsession with her brother, Danny, is. Not once it is blatantly stated that she is obsessed. Instead clues are given to help give the reader an idea of how she obsesses over keeping Danny safe, such as giving Danny excessive amount of presents (survival gear) compared to her father, constantly thinking and talking about him, etc. This clever way of writing clues also works with a soldier Lauren befriended, Daryl Green, and Lauren’s plans with him after she returns from Iraq. I will not spoil it here, but it did help to add suspense in the first two-thirds of the book when Dr Eileen Klein is desperately trying to contact Lauren.
I will give this book 4 stars out of 5. It’s a cleverly, beautifully written novel about mental illness, family and the effects of war on soldiers.
Thank you for reading!