In Come Back to Me, Melissa Foster explores the places women claim for themselves--places in love, in hate, places between cowardice and courage that often define women and their lives moving forward.
Tess Johnson, secure in her abilities and marriage, created her safe haven, her perfect place in the world. She and her photographer husband, Beau, have money, a home, and a five year plan--a plan that allows Beau to develop his name internationally, by returning to Iraq to chronicle how families survive and change during wartime.
Beau leaves with a pledge to return, and Tess doesn’t doubt for a moment that he will. When the five year plan takes an unexpected turn with Tess’s unplanned pregnancy, she decides the news can wait until Beau returns.
But Beau doesn’t return--according to reports, he is killed when his helicopter is shot down over the Iraqi desert.
Thousands of miles away from Tess’s shattered world, two Iraqi women seek desperately for their own safe places. Devastated by war and hatred, Suhu, a physician, and Samira, a young, abused widow with three children, are fleeing for their lives, trying to avoid being victims of ‘honor’ killings.
Hidden in a secret encampment in the desert, on their own, the women hear Beau’s helicopter when it explodes, then find his nearly-lifeless body on the desert sands. Knowing that helping an American only increases the chances of death, the two women commit themselves to healing him and helping him, regardless of the consequences.
Foster’s story is compelling and often disturbing as she sketches characters who walk the fine line between love and hate, life and death. Tess and Beau are engaging in love and distressing when confronted with the agony of separation; Suhu is a brave and wise woman who teaches Samira (and her rebellious son Zeid) that a woman’s place is not to accept degradation and abuse, but to learn and to love.
In the hands of a less skillful writer, this story could have become political or social diatribe, or been hard to follow as it skips back and forth between Maryland, in the U. S., and Iraq. Instead, Foster’s polished style develops emotional impact that will stay with the reader long after the story is done.
Neither love nor hate exists in a vacuum, as Come Back to Me clearly shows. The courage of women--and men--to find love in changing, often dark places, makes Foster’s work unusually poignant and memorable.