cover image Be Safe I Love You

Be Safe I Love You

Cara Hoffman. Simon & Schuster, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-45164-131-8

Hoffman’s excellent sophomore effort (after 2012’s So Much Pretty) describes the troubled homecoming of U.S. Army Sergeant Lauren Clay to Watertown, N.Y., from a tour of duty in Iraq. Lauren, left as a young girl by her mother to care for her little brother, Danny, and her depressed, bedridden father, is bitter and skeptical of her parents’ newfound eagerness to play an active role in her life. Once a promising classical singer, she is now permanently on edge, quick to anger, and plagued by nightmares and hallucinations. Upon her return, Lauren is alarmed to find that 13-year-old Danny has become an Internet junkie, and she decides to take him on a road trip to Canada. There, she plans to look for work with former soldier Daryl Green, a kindred spirit with whom she served. Lauren chucks Danny’s phone and subjects him to a crash course in wilderness survival as the two head north. Meanwhile, Lauren’s acquaintances become concerned about her unusual behavior, especially after several calls from an Army psychologist. Hoffman fills her tight narrative with an ominous sense of imminent violence. The sunny ending sounds a rare false note in this haunting page-turner, which otherwise rings true in its depiction of a veteran’s plight. Agent: Rebecca Friedman, Rebecca Friedman Literary. (Apr.)