Review: Leave Me.

Gayle Forman has previously written several successful YA novels. With Leave Me, she ventured into writing adult characters for the first time.
Maribeth Klein is a working mother of two and with little help from her husband, her life is as stressful as it gets. So stressful in fact that Maribeth ends up having a heart attack at only 44 years old. That should change things, right? But it doesn’t. So Maribeth does the unthinkable – she packs a bag and leaves.

At the beginning, seeing how much pressure Maribeth was under in her daily life and how she had to take care of so many duties and responsibilities by herself because she got so little help from those around her annoyed and frustrated me to no end. Shouldn’t her husband, for example, take on some of the responsibility as well? The answer is yes. Yes, he should. So it was a good kind of frustration – I was annoyed on Maribeth’s part. I felt for her. I emphasized with her. The unfairness of it all was pouring from the pages.

Then, after a while, Maribeth began to irritate me as well. It irritated me how she didn’t just straight up say what she thought even once. Nothing changes the fact that it’s all unfair to her and that those around her should notice things without help. But when you’re asked “Does this bother you?” more than once and you keep saying “No”, that doesn’t help anyone either. On the contrary – it’s frustrating and childish.

Maribeth had quite a few immature moments, but despite my annoyance, it didn’t make me dislike her as a character. In the end it just made her flawed and more real and I appreciated that in regards to other characters as well.

When Maribeth first makes the impulsive decision to leave, she doesn’t have a plan where she’s going. She just packs a bag, writes an e-mail to her husband,  takes enough cash out of the bank to last her for months and goes to the train station.

And here is something I found illogical – then we learn that she has that much money in a savings account and just takes out a large amount of it… but before it seemed as if they weren’t able to afford a maid or a babysitter or both for the week after her heart attack so she could get some proper rest. I get that they are savings for a reason. But I do think a heart attack classifies as an emergency and therefore would warrant taking out a comparatively small sum. I mean, come on…

In the end, Maribeth finds herself on a train to Pittsburgh, where she was adopted. The decision might have been unconscious initially, but she intends to search for her birth mother there. For that purpose and because she needs some time before she will be ready to face her life in New York again, she stays there for a while and even makes some new friends.

The premise of this story sounded incredibly fascinating to me. With overworked mothers everywhere, I expected  a deep, meaningful observation of their lives; of the double standard of women being expected to take care of everything despite having a job, too.

I wanted to see one of these women breaking under the pressure. And I wanted to see her stand up for herself. To clearly state what works and what doesn’t, what’s bothering her and how it has to change. Or I at least expected her to figure that out for herself while being away from it all and then come back and do that.

I expected a powerful portrayal of the situation of mothers in today’s world. But the truth is that’s just not what Leave Me is. Leave Me is less social critique than the story of a relationship. It’s a story of forgiveness with an ultimately hopeful outlook. And as such, it was an absolutely entertaining and engaging read.

I have to say that the first half of the novel moved a bit slow for me though. I wouldn’t say it dragged; I was just more eager to continue reading in the second half and the story moved at a quicker pace. The ending or rather the way the individual story lines were wrapped up even felt slightly rushed to me. I also wasn’t quite satisfied with the ending of the story line regarding Maribeth’s birth mother, but it wasn’t a major concern.

TL;DR

It wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it. I liked that the characters were flawed and real. The first half of the book moved a bit slow for me, although I then read the second half in one sitting.

Is there a fall/winter equivalent for a beach read? Because that’s how I feel about this book. It might be a bit heavier in themes and emotions than your average fluffy beach read, but in the end this is the kind of book to read purely for entertainment. And the entertainment in this case was good, so it’s actually a 3.5 for me.

final rating:

rating-3


goodreads-badge-add-plus_zpsc94610e9Forman, Gayle. Leave Me.
published on September 6th 2016 by Algonquin Books
343 pages [hardcover]
ISBN: 1616206179

[*I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.]


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Have you read this book? What did you think? Are you planning to read it?
Have you read any other of the author’s novels?

Tell me in the comments!

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25 thoughts on “Review: Leave Me.

  1. Great review… I actually thought this should go to my TBR pile until you said this: “I expected a powerful portrayal of the situation of mothers in today’s world. But the truth is that’s just not what Leave Me is. Leave Me is less social critique than the story of a relationship.” I think Maribeth’s character would start to irritate me as well, even though as you mention, it makes her more real… but I’d rather she was a force to be reckoned with rather than a sufferer in silence…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I wanted her to be like that. Especially because communication is so important for a relationship and I wish there were more examples in fiction of how to do it right. Even if the way she communicates with her husband (or rather doesn’t) really isn’t unrealistic at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of a fall/winter equivalent for a beach read. A fireplace read? All the reviews I’ve read for this book have been similar– entertaining, but not quite hitting the mark of expectation. I’ll shelve this away for a nice snowy/cold day in front of the fireplace.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fantastic review! It sounds like the author did an incredible job of portraying Maribeth in a very realistic light, which is something I can really appreciate. I do feel like this may have frustrated me a bit though. I tend to get irritated when I feel characters are making bad decisions or not doing enough to help themselves. Maybe that is part of the story and point, but haha I still get fired up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my god, it’s SO annoying when you ask a person what’s wrong and they say “Nothing”. Or the – “Does this bother you?” “No” – one. You’d think that it’s only women who do this but I’ve got a husband right here who does the exact same thing. And sometimes, it drives me nuts! So erm, yes, I definitely see what you mean there. If life is being so difficult for her, maybe she should’ve made it more clear?

    And what about her kids? She just leaves them behind in all of this then? I absolutely understand the overworked burnt-out mothers’ perspective, but leaving your children behind? I dunno! Something to reflect on for sure. But…this is one heck of a review M.! I’m all worked up about this book now and I haven’t even read it! xD

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – especially because it doesn’t help anyone when you don’t talk about what bothers you.
      And yes, quite a few people have remarked that it’s not cool to just abandon your children like that & I agree. Maribeth’s decision was impulsive of course, but there are more actions by her that I found downright irresponsible. They didn’t feel unbelievable though if you know what I mean. And for me, that’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how little I agree with a character or their choices as long as they are believable to me within the frame of that character’s world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, this happens every day in some marriages/relationships/families, so I get the realistic aspect of it all too well. Fiction has to be believable for sure! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Well, this was my first Gayle Forman read so I unfortunately can’t tell you anything about how it compares to her previous works! 😦 in general, I’d maybe try to view as a different thing before you go into it, something detached from her other works and then I’m sure it’ll all be good 🙂

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  5. Aww, I’m really sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much as you could have. I thought the premise was amazing as well and pretty realistic, mostly because what the protagonist is living is the everyday life of so many people in this world. It’s too bad that that part wasn’t satisfying, but at least it’s still an entertaining book. Hope your next read is better. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve read a few different reviews for this one, and they have all said similar things: they were expecting a book about the demands of Motherhood in society today, but that isn’t what it turned out to be. I think the consensus is that it is a worth while read, but just not the book they were expecting.

    Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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