A heartbreaking and insightful debut novel about the wars we fight overseas, at home, and within our own hearts.
Some come back whole. Some come back broken. Some just never come back...
As an executive for one of the most successful military defense contractors in the country, Ruth Nolan should have been thrilled when her troubled son, Robbie, chose to join the marines. But she wasn’t. She was terrified.
So, when he returns home to San Diego after his second tour in Iraq, apparently unscathed, it feels like a chance to start over and make things right—until a scandal at work tears her away from their reunion. By the next morning, Robbie is gone. A note arrives for Ruth in the mail a few days later saying, “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, heading away from her guilt and regret. But the closer she gets to the coast she was born on, the more evident it becomes that she won’t outrun her demons—eventually, she’ll have to face them and confront the painful truth about her past, her choices, the war, and her son.
Ruth Nolan has always strived for success. Even as a young girl growing up in rural New Hampshire, she could only dream about getting away to a place where she could be all of that and more.
She found it as an executive for a top defense firm in San Diego. She has poured her heart into her career and has sacrificed so much of her own life to get where she is – including her son Robbie.
Robbie always seemed to be a lost and troubled soul after the split of his parents but Ruth was always sure that he would find his way and that they would both find a way to be happy. So when he announces suddenly that he has joined the Marines, she’s equally relieved and terrified for her only child.
Life goes on and Ruth continues to pursue her own vision of happiness. She hears from her son rarely but he’s never far from her thoughts. But when Robbie finally returns from his deployment to Iraq, there’s a sadness about him that lies just below the surface. It’s something that she just doesn’t recognize until tragedy strikes leaving her with nothing but her regret and box of ashes.
Each “if” launched her into a waking dream, so real that she could almost believe that she had made the right decision at each of these points, that the events unfolding around her were happening to the mother of another boy. He’d been hurting and she hadn’t seen. She hadn’t seen how much he needed her. Neal had tried to tell her to look more closely, but she hadn’t looked closely enough. She wanted to sleep. If she could fall asleep again, she could wake up and start over. She’d go back as far as time would let her go. Change everything. She could bring him back.
Casey MacInerney is just another number to the VA. He lost his leg in Operation Desert Storm and has been floating from one trailer park to the next all while gambling away his disability check. He encounters Ruth and even though he only plans to use her for money, he soon discovers that there is something about this lost woman that he just can’t walk away from.
Together they embark on a life changing road trip to their roots back East and discover the real truth about war, despair and the meaning of love.
Since Robbie’s death, everything she’d built, everything she knew about herself had been shorn away like shingles in a hurricane. Casey had seen her at her lowest. He hadn’t lied to her. He had tried to help her find a path. He’d been her friend. And she needed her friend when she gave up Robbie and was left with her family’s grief, and her own. She wanted to delay a little longer whatever was coming next.
Casualties isn’t a love story. It’s not a romance. But what it is – is something special.
A novel told with narrative that is so heartbreaking and brutally honest, it will leave no emotion left unscathed, It’s a stark reminder to tell that person that you love them. Take that trip and treasure every single moment. Don’t wait for tomorrow.
So for today, I have found a new favourite author in the voice of Elizabeth Marro…
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