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Book Review: Leave Me

LEAVE ME: A NOVEL, BY GAYLE FORMAN

PUBLISHER: ALGONQUIN BOOKS; SEPTEMBER 6, 2016

Leave meSynopsis: Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and 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.

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 often the case, once we get 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 able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.

With big-hearted characters–husbands, wives, friends, and lovers–who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?

Review: “Leave Me” is the upcoming release from author Gayle Forman, about a busy, stressed mother of twins, not exactly thrilled with her marriage, that suffers a heart attack. Maribeth was feeling bad for a day or so before finally ending up in the ER, learning that she’s had a heart attack, and then ends up in emergency bypass surgery. After a week, her husband Jason brings her home to their twins and Maribeth’s mother who has flown there to “help out.” Over the next few weeks and follow-up cardiologist appointments, Maribeth is supposed to be getting better. But between Jason working until all hours, no one doing the dishes or willing to go to the store, and her young twins getting lice Maribeth gets no time to rest and really heal. What does she do?  She leaves Jason a note, packs a bag, empties half of her savings, and hops on a train to Pittsburg. Having been born in Pittsburg and then given up for adoption, Maribeth decides to get the help of a woman named Janice to find her birth mother. She finds a cardiologist, Stephen, that is quiet and sad, and moves into an apartment building where she meets Sunny and Todd, two students that live upstairs. Maribeth builds new friendships with the people in her life and waits 5 weeks to finally email her husband. She starts healing and feeling better, eating better, learns to swim, and searches for her mother. Once Maribeth and Jason begin emailing one another, lines of communication are opened that have been closed for many years, and they slowly learn to open up to one another.

I understand the premise of this book and the need for Maribeth to get away from life in order to physically heal and become healthy again. If I came home a week after bypass surgery and no one in the house was willing to do the dishes, I would be pissed. Her mother and her husband should have stepped up, taken care of the house, gone grocery shopping, and so on. However, being all too familiar with the pain of being separated from your children, I struggled to sympathize, empathize or whatever with Maribeth. Yes, her young daughter screamed at her, hit her in the chest a week after surgery, and was an overall brat. But take all of that savings and hire a nanny and a housekeeper until you’re well, don’t leave your children. Besides my personal feelings about leaving her children, I struggle trying to find what was achieved by her absence. She located her birth records and learned about her family medical history, she learned how to swim, and she got well. But unless I missed it, I never saw some life-changing moment or epiphany that made her running away a successful journey. Sure, Jason learned to step up and do his part, but what did Maribeth discover about herself during this time? She demonstrated the ability to cook a mean paella and cure a hangover, oh and kissed her doctor a few times.

With that being said, I respect and admire the author’s writing style and actually like the premise of the plot and characters. I think that Forman sort of “missed the boat” with her own idea without further developing the characters and plot. This could have been a great story to tell if Maribeth would have learned something from the experience. Otherwise, it just appears to be a selfish mom and wife that decided to run away for a few months. I have read other novels by Gayle Forman before and loved them so it doesn’t change my opinion of her amazing writing ability. But this one just missed the mark with me.

Learn more about Gayle Forman by visiting her web page.

Purchase “Leave Me” on Amazon on and after September 6, 2016.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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