Hoffman’s (So Much Pretty, 2011) latest novel centers on a female soldier who comes home to a reality in which she feels alienated and out of sync.
Lauren Clay didn’t follow the rest of the cream of her high school graduating class into college; instead, the gifted student with the beautiful, classically trained voice opted for the Army, where she ended up in a war zone, dodging bullets and losing her identity to a case of PTSD. But no one at home wants to acknowledge that the Lauren who has returned to Watertown isn’t the same girl who left. While her dad, Jack, and her boyfriend, Shane, puzzle over her changed behavior, Lauren experiences difficulty reintegrating into her old life. Although she loves her younger brother, Danny, more than anything or anyone, she takes him on a hazardous trip to a basin that has become the site of an oil field and seeks out her friend Daryl, another soldier. That trip turns into a race against time as her family tries to find Lauren before the unthinkable happens. For those who like their prose spare and unembellished, beware: Hoffman has nothing in common with the Hemingway school of writing. But she does an admirable job of conveying the confusion and helplessness of a returning warrior with PTSD who is trying to reintegrate into society and finds it makes little sense. And Hoffman has a knack for bringing her characters to life while providing readers with a reason to care about them. But in this instance, Hoffman’s talent may not be enough to keep readers focused on a tale that tends to drift and, despite her considerable skill as a writer, sometimes becomes more about the beauty of her words than the story she’s trying to tell.
Hoffman weaves an intricate plot, but a tendency to overwrite shadows her story, leaving the reader to make a complicated literary journey that, for some, may not be worth the effort.