“She placed her wired-up hand across her taped-up chest. She felt her heart beating there, as it had been since she was a baby, no a fetus even, nestled inside the womb of a mother she had never known. But it had stopped beating. She wasn’t sure why, but this felt like a threshold she had crossed, leaving everyone and everything she had ever known on the other side.”
-Gayle Forman, Leave Me
When I first entered into the publishing industry six months ago, Leave Me was the very first manuscript that I had the opportunity to read. And it was amazing. So now that it is FINALLY out in stores, I’m thrilled to be the one to write this review for it. I feel like this is a gem that I’ve been hiding for months and months, and I’m so excited to finally show it off! (Except it’s Gayle Forman’s gem, and I’m showing it off for her? Semantics.)
Leave Me is a book that I went into totally unsure of how I’d feel about it. So let me start by telling you what I knew going into it.
Maribeth is a busy, working mother of twins. Her schedule is chaotic. She is being pulled in 50 million directions. But, as she constantly tells herself, what mother isn’t? She’s so busy that she doesn’t even know she’s having a heart attack.
Suddenly Maribeth’s life is turned upside down. Except it also hasn’t. While Maribeth is attempting to take a step back and take care of herself, her family’s demands continue. And when she realizes that her recovery is more of an imposition on her family than a necessity to them, she grabs a bag and leaves her life behind.
So that’s what I knew. And I had fully planned to dislike Maribeth. Until I didn’t. Because Maribeth and her plight is entirely relatable (you know, minus the fact that I’m not a mother and I’ve never had a heart attack). The description of the book says that it is “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.” And I think every person, at some point in their life, has probably been so overwhelmed by their situation that they gave a thought, even if just for a brief second, about how their life could be different if they were to just drop everything and leave. Maribeth’s story is the one of what you do next, and how you deal with the fallout of your decision.
And I love how polarizing the premise can be for readers. Throughout my reading experience of Leave Me, I had nothing but understanding and sympathy for Maribeth’s plight. And then I was discussing the book with someone and they mentioned how much they disliked Maribeth for her actions. And I think it’s a fascinating look into what flaws people are willing to forgive in others. The discussion generated around this book was one of my favourite aspects post-read.
I think Forman’s skills are what really bring this novel home. After Maribeth’s release from the hospital, as her family’s demands only increased day after day, Maribeth’s stress became my own. I felt anxiety on a visceral level, and I can only attribute that to Forman’s incredible writing skills. It’s easy when reading fiction to maintain a distance from the text; the feelings of the characters are their feelings, and I am able to observe without feeling them as well. But with Forman’s novel, I was enraptured. As her family continued to pile on Maribeth, I felt the weight of it. And when she was in the midst of her self-imposed exile, I felt her pain and her longing for her family.
Many will know Gayle Forman from her YA bestseller If I Stay, but Leave Me is actually her debut into adult fiction. And I think it’s safe to say that it’s a huge success. But Leave Me isn’t just a story for mothers; it’s a story that can be read across the spectrum: men, women, adults, teenagers, and on and on until I’ve listed every possible category.
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