Published by Algonquin Books on September 6th 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Women
International bestselling author Gayle Forman's trademark humor and insight abound in this masterful adult debut, showing us that sometimes you have to leave home in order to find it again.
For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.
Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.
With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.
This is a spoiler free review.
So I’m a Gayle Forman virgin. Well, scratch that… I used to be one, and then this book came along. I know this author is massively popular due to her YA books and this is her first foray into women’s fiction. I’m going to say I liked it. I just didn’t love it.
The writing itself was incredibly accomplished. Her use of language is so rich and proficient, so full of color and luminosity, the characters practically leap off the pages. They simmer with personality. I think that was actually my favorite part about this book, the characterization. The secondary characters, specifically, won me over – Todd and Sunita… and Janice also deserves an honorable mention.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself here. I’m not going to rehash this book’s synopsis, as you can easily find that elsewhere. I think it’s enough to say that Maribeth Klein is a 44 year old overtaxed, overburdened wife and mother of two, with a vaguely unfulfilling job and a husband that fails to step up when she becomes victim to a heart attack and then has to endure the strenuous recovery process. Maribeth is a control freak who lives by plans and lists and who’s slowly being consumed by a monotonous life that’s been packed way over the brim.
The theme and point of the book seems a bit open ended, as we’re basically taken through Maribeth’s journey of self discovery once she decides to up and leave. It’s obvious she has tremendous abandonment issues that she’s buried underneath the monotony of her day to day life. Maribeth can only ever achieve true peace of mind once she’s able to confront her biggest fears instead of sweeping them under the carpet. In short, this is a character study. Maribeth did grate on me sometimes, but I did understand why she made the controversial decisions she made, such as leaving her kids. Once the story wraps up, I didn’t feel like judging her harshly as a wife or a mother. I think sometimes you do need to pull away to avoid hurting the ones you love.
The story tended to meander a little, and even though the theme of adoption and motherhood was very much intertwined with the story, I was surprised about how vastly the former defined this book. I think that people that have been adopted may feel very identified with this book because of that. Anyone else may feel a bit disconnected. Had the story focused more on an exploration of the concept of marriage and the perils of midlife crisis like I was hoping, this book would have been a little more powerful and encompassing. But then again, maybe some people will be able to analyze it from that angle and derive some sort of satisfying messsage. The book is vague enough that pinpointing a clear message is a little harder than I thought.
All in all, I really did like this book and it’s made me curious about this author’s previous works, which I hear are a lot more satisfying in their narrative. I was a bit confused between a 3.5 and a 4 star rating. In the end, I’m going with 4 stars because I was interested all throughout. The ending lacked a punch, but overall, I think that women in their 30s and 40s will find this book extremely hard to put down and they’ll probably find themselves in there somewhere.