A heartbreaking and insightful debut novel about the wars we fight overseas, at home, and within our own hearts.
‘Casualties is a debut novel by Elizabeth Marro. There are three major players in this book. Ruth Nolan, her Marine son Robbie, and Casey, a war veteran from the Gulf War, an amputee and gambler and father to a child he supports but has not seen in years. It’s an unsettling book, very difficult to grasp because of the actions and choices these people make.
Ruth Nolan works for a military defense contractor as an executive and is very high up the corporate ladder. Her company is facing a major scandal due to the non-payment of benefits and medical bills to people who are in dire need and are being refused because of incomplete paperwork. A scapegoat is required and Ruth Nolan is it. At this time, her son Robbie has completed his term in the Marines and is on his way home. He informs his mother that he has been delayed and goes to see his grandmother and Ruth’s brother Kevin at an old farmhouse he grew up in and was very happy as a child. Robbie is badly damaged and suffers from PTSD and does not want to see his mother, yet. The very contentious relationship between them is revealed in stages. Ruth’s need to control and direct Robbie’s every move is supposedly based in love and care for him but somehow, I didn’t believe that. You get to see Ruth’s character in bits and pieces until you realize she is just as broken as he is.
Finally Robbie gets home to Ruth who is not happy to find out he was with her brother and grandmother. They plan to have dinner together when all hell breaks loose with her job and she has to leave him and go to work. Robbie finds his own solution and Ruth has a major meltdown when she is informed of her son’s suicide.
She ends up with her son’s ashes and Casey, a war veteran, and go on a road trip that turns into an unbelievable journey. They travel the roads in her Jaguar, which reminds her of her success and is a symbol of what she felt she had achieved. After being attacked, beaten, and almost raped in a Las Vegas parking lot, she gets Casey to drive while she makes up her mind as to what she wants for Robbie’s ashes and herself. So the journey begins for both of them.
‘Casualties’ was a difficult read in parts; it made me angry, it made me cry, and in so doing, it brought the characters to life and for me, that makes a good first effort. In reading the book, I got to know Ruth, Robbie, and Casey and at the end of the day, anybody’s day, you look for hope for tomorrow.
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