*I received a free copy of Leave Me from Algonquin Books via BEA16. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *Leave Me by Gayle Forman
Published by Algonquin Books on 13 September 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Reading Challenges: 2016 New Release Challenge, COYER Summer 2016
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.
Leave Me left me feeling a bit raw, with my emotions and my heartbeat just underneath the surface of my skin.
In many ways, I was totally prepared to hate Maribeth, the main character in Leave Me. A 44-year-old mom of twins, a career woman, a wife, a friend, a daughter… One day, she was feeling out of sorts and it took until later the next day for her to figure out that she was having a heart attack. Which ended with her having open heart surgery and being out of it for a while, and recuperating in the hospital for a full week. Once back home, and really needing her husband to take care of her for a change, she once more finds herself to be the one who has to deal with everything! Taking care of the twins after school, making food, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry… You name it – Maribeth was the one who ended up doing it, even with her mom having come to New York from Florida to help out.
It was impossible for me not to feel a kinship of sorts with Maribeth, as I’m 45, I have four kids, am finishing my Master’s degree, and am working… And it sometimes does feel like the world (at least our family’s world) rests almost completely on my shoulders. My husband is a great guy, but there are a lot of the small things he would never think to do! And so, while I don’t see myself ever actually walking out on my kids and my husband – that’s what Maribeth thought she had to do to survive the aftermath of her heart surgery – I could definitely understand her reasons for doing so! Leave Me really shows that while a lot of things have been done for gender equality, we still have a very long way to go in order for women to truly be able to ‘do it all’!
Leave Me is as much about Maribeth and her need to recuperate, to get some rest, and also find herself once more as it is about how hard it can be to be a woman who wants to have and do it all. All the choices we make have consequences, and one of the things Maribeth had always held at bay was the fact that she was adopted. She knew this, but never had the inclination to find her birth mother. After her heart attack, however, she realized that it might be important for her to know about genetic illnesses in her family. Having all of this to deal with, and with a husband who seemed to spend more and more time away from home, it was no problem for me not to be mad at Maribeth. Especially because I never saw her leaving as permanent.
As the story unfolded, Maribeth learned a lot about herself, and as a reader, I was able to reassess some things right next to her. Figuring out what she truly wanted to do with the rest of her life, and how she wanted to go about it was an important part of her healing process, just as meeting new people and having to take care of only herself for a while. Written in third person point of view, past tense, and from Maribeth’s perspective, Leave Me exceeded my expectations, and kept me invested in the story and the characters’ outcome from start to finish!
“You sure you didn’t get inseminated with the wrong egg,” more than one person had quipped. The joke was stinging. Because Maribeth didn’t know where Liv got that princess hair from, or those apple eyes, let alone their intense gaze. Looking at the little genetic puzzle that was her daughter had opened up if not quite sadness in Maribeth, then a sonar ping of sorrow.
“I believe you have a healthy heart,” she said. “The doctors have done their part. But if you want to get better, really better, well, you’re going to have to do that for yourself.”
Her lists, her plans – they were her parachute, the thing to keep her from total free fall. She was in free fall now. And it wasn’t killing her. In fact, she was beginning to wonder if she might’ve had it backwards. All that fixating on the fall… maybe she should’ve been paying more attention to the free.