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"The Things She Carries:" New York Times Book Review

"The Things She Carries" review in New York Times

Sunday Book Review

The Things She Carries
‘Be Safe I Love You,’ by Cara Hoffman

By ALISSA J. RUBIN  |  MAY 23, 2014

When a soldier on the battlefield shoots an innocent civilian, what goes through his or, in this case, her mind? What did she see between the cross hairs, or hear or sense that made her feel she had to pull the trigger, and what becomes of her ­afterward?

Such tragedies have occurred repeatedly in America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and each story’s details are a bit different, but nonfiction has rarely been able to capture the experience of the killer or explain just why this sort of thing happens. It takes a finely tuned piece of fiction, one that traces a veteran’s return home, to pull apart the strands.

At the heart of Cara Hoffman’s new novel, “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 the case of Lauren Clay, the novel’s protagonist, it began even before she considered joining the military.

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