Cara Hoffman on Women and War

 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)


A story opens with a soldier returning home from war. Relieved, full of anticipation ... and terrified that everyone will ask what it was like being in the thick of it. That deeply unsettled veteran could be any number of profoundly damaged male protagonists in fiction about war. But in the case of Cara Hoffman's new novel, Be Safe, I Love You, the veteran is Lauren Clay, who's coming home from the Iraq War to her fragile family in a run-down military town in New York state.

It's true that women serving in the military have become commonplace. Hundreds of thousands of women have served in the armed forces of Canada, the United States and Britain in such countries as Afghanistan and Iraq. Twenty percent of active duty U.S. armed forces are women.

But writing about war by women is still relatively rare ... and writing from the perspective of female soldiers is rarer still. In Lauren Clay, the horrors that war imprints on the psyche are brought vividly alive and the torments of post-traumatic stress disorder are made more complex by a woman's relationship to her family, her community and herself.

Cara Hoffman's debut novel, So Much Pretty, was one of the most acclaimed books of 2011, and Be Safe, I Love You is being hailed as a landmark of women's writing about war. Cara Hoffman joined guest host Rick MacInnes-Rae now from CBC's New York studio.

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