Casualties: A Novel. Elizabeth Marro. Penguin Group (USA). February 2016. 368 pp. ISBN#: 9780425283462.
Ruth Nolan is an executive in a military defense contractor company. She’s successful and her biggest worry is her son, Robbie, who is unsure about his future. Ruth, although truly well-intentioned, is a super-nag! She doesn’t mean to but can’t seem to control her need to control Robbie’s every step. She tells him she loves him but Robbie can’t quite feel that through the incessant directions and plans she’s plotting for his life. So Robbie makes a major decision and carries it out without letting his mother know. He joins the Marines. Ruth’s reaction is double-edged. On the one hand she isn’t worried at all about him now that he’s made plans but the other truly caring side knows he will constantly be in grave danger! It’s the nightmare military Moms live through on a daily basis.
Meanwhile trouble is brewing at work, big trouble! Without providing a spoiler, it turns out that promises made to military defenders and their families have been ignored to the point where it has become a public scandal. When Robbie finally returns from serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s a different person. He reaches out first to other relatives, without telling his mother. When he does appear, Ruth is caught up in a volatile situation at work and after several more attempts Robbie gives up and leaves with an apology note left behind.
This is the story of Ruth’s awakening. The loss of her son traumatizes her into paying attention to war, the emotional and mental effect of military service on those who serve, the lack of financial, mental and emotional support of the government for those who fight in its name, her own company’s negligence that is far more devastating than just statistics and mistakes indicate.
We are told, “War is hell.” However, this is a tale that must be told as numerous men and women return from war broken, forgotten and unsupported. The questions Ruth asks are so real that it’s painful to read them. To move beyond reading and to actively make a difference are Ruth’s incentives to the public. Quietly telling the truth and “being there” in whatever way one responds will make all the difference in the world. “Thank you for your service” just isn’t enough! Thanks to Elizabeth Marro for telling it like it is!