CASUALTIES

Elizabeth Marro

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.

more …

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.

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  • Berkley
  • Paperback
  • February 2016
  • 368 Pages
  • 9780425283462

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About Elizabeth Marro

Elizabeth Marro’s work has appeared in The San Diego Reader, The Gloucester Daily Times, LiteraryMama.com, and elsewhere. A long-time resident of the “North Country” region of New Hampshire, she holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire and Rutgers University, and now lives in San Diego. Casualties is her first novel.

Praise

“How do you survive the unendurable? Marro’s gorgeous debut is about war, grief, guilt, and grappling with the truths you don’t expect, and finally taking the risk and acknowledging the ones that you do. Moving and full of heart.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“A gritty tragedy that unrelentingly addresses painful issues of war, suicide, and the shady dealings of defense contractors…It isn’t a happily-ever-after story, but Marro casts a ray of hope that a good life can be lived after terrible tragedy.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With its gripping plot and seasoned prose, it is hard to imagine that Casualties is Elizabeth Marro’s debut novel. She writes of a mother’s worst nightmare, and offers no easy answers. By the end of her novel we care for her characters, and hope that each can find the elusive redemption they so desire.—Alan Russell, bestselling author of Burning Man

“Conflicting human needs, difficult choices, missed opportunities, and the random luck of the draw challenge the true-to-life, complicated characters in Elizabeth Marro’s page-turning novel. This is an important story set against the drama of today’s volatile world that asks moral questions yet, ultimately, resides in the heart.—Judy Reeves, author of Wild Women, Wild Voices

Discussion Questions

Are there examples in this novel of casualties suffered personally by the characters that go

beyond the most obvious ones associated with war? If so, how did these influence the course of

their lives? How aware are Ruth and Casey of the casualties they may have suffered?

How do you think you’d have handled Robbie’s homecoming if you were Ruth? What might

you have done differently? Do you understand her decisions even if you might have made

different ones?

How do you think you’d have handled Robbie’s homecoming if you were Ruth? What might

you have done differently? Do you understand her decisions even if you might have made

different ones?

What is your sense of the relationship between Ruth and Robbie? How does the novel

comment on the dynamic between parents and children? Do you think a different relationship

would have led to a different outcome?

What is Robbie seeking when he enlists in the Marines? What does his experience in the

military give him? How does going to war affect his feelings about being a Marine?

How did your view of Ruth change from the beginning of the novel to the end? Why? At what

points could you relate to her and understand her decisions, whether or you agreed with them or

not? What might you have done differently?

When Robbie goes to New Hampshire, what does he hope to find? What keeps him from

finding it? What keeps him from asking for what he needs?

Do you know any people like Casey? What made it easy or difficult to relate to his character?

What made you like or dislike him?

At various points in their lives and in the novel, Ruth, Robbie, and Casey think about how

their lives might have been altered had their circumstances been different or if they’d made other decisions. What might have led to a different outcome for each of them? How would this have

changed them and the story?

Early in the novel Ruth recalls with a sense of frustration her grandmother’s comment, “It’s all one life,

honey. You can’t just start a new one because you don’t like the one you have.” What do you think she meant? What did Casey mean when he echoed the same thought? Are they right?

Why is the relationship between Ruth and Casey cathartic for them both? What do they learn

from each other?

What do you think Ruth’s life looks like five years after the book ends? What about Casey’s?

Do you think one character has a better shot at getting what he or she is looking for than the

other? Why?

How did reading Casualties affect your understanding of the challenges faced by veterans

and military contractors and their families in the aftermath of recent wars? Are the issues faced

by contractors distinct from those of active-duty military or veterans? Are they perceived

differently? How and why?