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