Gayle Forman has shown herself to be a force in young adult/new adult writing. Here, she ventures for the first time into adult fiction.
Forty-four-year-old Maribeth is a wife, a mother of 4-year-old twins and a busy magazine editor. While she had hoped (and was promised by her longtime best friend and new boss) her return to magazine work after giving birth and rearing toddlers would still give her some good time to spend with them and her husband, it did not turn out that way, of course. Life is hectic and exhausting, and she’s disappointed with the course of her friendship and frustrated with a number of small and bigger things in her life. But she’s pressing forward, as one does.
When she has a heart attack one day, she doesn’t even realize what she’s experiencing. It takes hours, and a few fortunate turns of events, for her to end up in a hospital. And then she ends up undergoing surgery.
Doctors tell her to rest and take time to recover. But as every mother knows, self-care, even when the situation is life-and-death, is nearly impossible when little ones’ needs trump all others. And husbands are notorious for not being able to step in and really take over the work of a mom. Maribeth is left to “recover” at home, with preschoolers who can’t understand and still need her to read to them in just the right voices, with a mother who came to stay to “help” but brings just as many stresses as she alleviates, and with dishes still in the sink and mail (some very important) left unread. She’s angry, frustrated, disappointed, stressed. She worries about her job, about loss of income, about the future.
And one day, a few weeks into the process, she just picks up and leaves. She takes some money out of an account, packs a small bag and gets on a westbound train. She only knows that she needs the opportunity and time to heal. And whatever happens, somewhere in the future, she will figure out how she might have to pick up the pieces of the life she puts on hold. But maybe, just maybe, the space and time will help her to heal some things on the inside she didn’t even realize were hurting.
While I really identified with Maribeth, at least what she was dealing with at the beginning (I felt that anger towards her husband’s lapses, hoo boy, did I feel it), I just didn’t love her enough for the whole book. I read both Forman’s new adult sets If I Stay and Where She Went and Just One Day and Just One Year, and those were quite good. The first in particular packed a punch and had characters I couldn’t help but love, though I didn’t necessarily have much in common with them. I really cared about what happened and what the main character chose.
Perhaps this book didn’t pull me in quite as much because some of the parts of the story seemed a touch too formulaic. Perhaps it was something else. But I did appreciate the journey, though I was a touch disappointed in it not being as great as I’d hoped. So far, I think Leave Me is the weakest of Forman’s books and doesn’t have the same voice as her others (this could easily have been one of Anne Tyler’s lesser works or one by Jane Green or Emily Giffin). Ironically, this may be the book that’s closest to Forman’s own experience as a wife and mom and magazine writer. It’s good but it doesn’t stand out, at least not for me.
Rated: High, for 15 to 20 uses of strong language and some other milder language, and some brief sexual references.
*I received an advanced reader’s e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.