From the moment I heard that YA author Gayle Forman (If I Stay, I Was Here,) had penned an adult novel, I knew that I just HAD to get hold of a copy. Fortunately I did not have long to wait, as five hours later I found a copy waiting for me on my doorstep. (No, Simon and Schuster Australia have not started up a psychic review request service, they just have a knack for sending me the perfect books to feature on this blog.) Anyway, I was intrigued with this title right from the start, and I'm pleased to report that it ticked all the right boxes.
Leave Me opens with Maribeth Klein, a New York based magazine editor. She is forty-four years old and as well as having a successful career, she is a wife and mother. And she knows only too well that the idea that women can 'have it all' is a complete myth. She struggles with her duel roles, motherhood and career, a scenario that many, many women will be able to relate to.
Then along comes an incident that changes everything.
At work, Maribeth has a heart attack, and she does not even realise it. And what follows leaves her questioning everything. Struggling with conflicting emotions--loving and hating her family, her job and her situation--she makes the decision to flee New York and her family for the small town where she was born, and subsequently adopted.
Forman's greatest talent as an author is her ability to tell realistic stories about people who are struggling to find a sense of self--which may help to explain why she has become so popular with YA readers and why, conversely, novels such as If I Stay have been exceptionally popular with readers who are well outside of their intended audience. Her writing touches readers because it is so easy for us to see ourselves and our vulnerabilities within her characters. Leave Me is no exception. This isn't a story about a "terrible" woman who abandons her children. It's about a woman who, though she loves her family deeply, needs to find a vital sense of self so that she can return and be the mother that she wants to be to her children. And the subject matter is dealt with sympathetically, gently probing at the big questions in Maribeth's life--her relationship with her husband, her children, her best friend and her adoptive mother. One key aspect of the story is left open, but I felt that it was handled well, and quite realistically.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and I hope that it inspires readers who have previously not read anything by this author to consider reading her previous novels.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my review copy.