Sometimes, readers get the opportunity to embrace a book so powerful and moving that it literally leaves them speechless. Typically, I can explain my feelings about things quite easily. That is, until I read Cara Hoffman’s Be Safe I Love You.
First, I should give you the premise. Be Safe I Love You is about Lauren Clay, a young woman who recently returned from serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Before she left, Lauren was a classically trained vocalist with a bright future ahead of her. Unfortunately, situations in her family life forced her to find means of providing for her younger brother, Danny, and their father. Enlisting in the army provided Lauren with the financial means to provide a life for her brother. She knew it would mean she would have to leave Danny and her life behind. What she didn’t realize is it would leave a permanent and lasting impact on her life.
Going in to my read of Be Safe I Love You, I, like Lauren, had no idea what I was getting myself into. Like Lauren, I didn’t understand how mentally and emotionally altered I would feel after the experience. Though it has been two weeks since my second read of this book, I feel it holds part of my heart, my soul, captive in its embrace.
The first time I read it, I devoured it in a matter of hours. As the publication date approached, I knew I was going to have to read it again so I could formulate some sort of review. After I finished the second reading, however, I was just as speechless and devoid of any ability to write anything about this title that made any sort of sense. I tried, for two straight weeks, to get my brain wrapped around my feelings, to put into words how I felt about this book, about how much it moved me. I felt like such a failure when I couldn’t.
Then last night I had an idea. My problem wasn’t that I couldn’t formulate my thoughts about this book. I most certainly could! The format is what was throwing me off. So, instead. I free wrote this thank you letter to the author, Cara Hoffman:
I personally want to thank you for gifting the world with a book as brilliant and moving as Be Safe I Love You. You have succeeded at bringing to light a subject matter that has been ignored for so long. We sent our citizens into fight wars. We give them the ammunition and physical armor to protect them in the line of fire. Yet, we don’t give them the mental support and stability to fight such a battle. We run them through drills of all kinds yet never do we warn them, prepare them, for the mental onslaught they are about to face. In your novel, Lauren is a victim of our country’s ignorance. She has no concept of what she has signed up for and is in no way prepared to deal with what she witnesses in the line of battle. Then, after she is sent home, she’s thrown back into the “real” world without any support. It is by mere coincidence/chance that someone catches something that causes them to worry. What if that paperwork was pushed to the side, ignored like so many other things?
As I read Be Safe I Love You, tears poured down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of troops dealing with what Laura faced. These are real people, not robots that can be expected to reboot and forget everything that has transpired. They can’t shut off their feelings ore erase their memories. They have to face them. And we, as thankful and grateful citizens of the United States of America, need to help them. We need to give them the resources and support they need to get on with their lives, to heal and recover (both physically and mentally) when they return from the battlefields. We can not afford to keep ignoring something that devastates so many of our troops. This support is the very least we can do, for these people put their lives on hold, leave their families behind, in order to protect our country.
So, Cara, while this isn’t my typical way of showing my opinion about a book, I hope it allows you to see that I get it. I hope others get it, too, and that we, as a country, put an end to the ignorance that surrounds the mental welfare of our troops. Thank you.