A debut novel by Elizabeth Marro seeks to convey the damages of war through fiction, this time from the fresh perspective of a soldier’s mother. CASUALTIES (Berkley; February 2, 2016) reverberates with the timely and powerful themes of war, PTSD, and social responsibility that have made Phil Klay’s Redeployment, Roxana Robinson’s Sparta, and Billy Lynn’s Long Half-time Walk so resonant. It is a heartbreaking and insightful look at the wars we fight overseas, at home, and within our own hearts.
What it’s about:
When her son returns home from Iraq, Ruth Nolan, an executive for a successful military defense contractor, feels it’s a chance to start over and mend their relationship. But an emergency at the office leads to a canceled lunch date, the last chapter in a series of missed connections between Ruth and the son she holds fiercely close. The next morning Robbie is found dead in a motel bathtub, leaving behind a tidy room and a note that says “I’m sorry for everything. It’s not your fault. I love you.” Without a backward glance, Ruth packs up Robbie’s ashes and drives east. Her grief is also complicated by her involvement in an industry that profits from war, and the heartbreaking revelation that the business she helped build was withholding life insurance payouts from military families.
Why you’ll care:
Marro explores the challenging terrain of mother-child relationships, marked as they are with hopes, missed opportunities, regrets, and in the end, the need for release and acceptance. As a civilian exploring the world of the military and defense industries, she often felt like she “did not have a right to go there.” But in piecing together Ruth’s story, Marro was forced to move past that feeling of “otherness,” and succeeds in offering a fresh perspective on the challenge of moving forward—even when you are a casualty of circumstances. CASUALTIES was a finalist for the 2014 San Diego Book Awards Association Contest under the category of unpublished novel.