Lauren Clay has always been the one to do whatever needs to be done. When her parent's marriage disintegrated and their father retreated into his own world it was Lauren who stepped up to the plate to care for her younger brother, Danny. It was she who made sure he got fed and clothed and off to school. And it was Lauren who found a way to get the bills paid when her father couldn't even get out of bed. Rather than go to the prestigious music school to study opera, she enlisted and was sent off to battle. Her combat pay and steady paychecks went a long way to helping Danny and giving him a more normal life.
Time has passed and it is now Christmas and Lauren is coming home from her tour of duty. Her time in the desert has changed her in ways that are still revealing themselves and her homecoming is not made easier when she realizes just how much things have changed at home. She struggles to find her place in a world that is mostly ignorant to what really happens in war. Will she ever be able to fit back into that world, but more importantly, does she really want to?
It is ingrained in our collective brains to imagine a war veteran being a man, but in Cara Hoffman's novel, Be Save, I Love You she introduces us to a vet by the name of Lauren Clay. Lauren is a young woman who was forced to grow up rather quickly. Her devotion to her younger brother comes from a pure place in her heart and her devotion is my favorite thing about her. Even when her intentions start to get a little murky you know that she believes she is acting with pure intentions. Through her memories and I guess you could say flashbacks, the reader starts to piece together what happened and it is no wonder the nightmares haunt her. Is it PTSD? I don't know, the author doesn't go so far as to diagnosis, but it is obvious to the reader that Lauren's time in the war had a profound impact on her and how she interacts with other people. PTSD is very scary and very real and I think the author did a remarkable job at addressing it with Lauren. Even when the book was at it's darkest and I feared for both Lauren and Danny, but I just knew that Lauren would not bring harm to Danny. Some might thing that the end was a bit too "happy", given the nature of the story, but I thought it was "real" and appropriate.
Bottom line, Be Safe, I Love You is one of those hauntingly beautiful novels where the beauty could easily get lost in the darkness of the subject matter. There are thousands and thousands of service men and women who have returned home from war over the last decade and Be Safe, I Love You gives you just a glimpse of what life is like for those heroes. Definitely a must read.