Leave Me by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Maribeth is an overworked mother of four-year-old twins: busy dividing her time as an editor of a magazine, mothering her twins, and taking care of her household. But Maribeth is so busy she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack. Once out of the hospital, Maribeth is shocked to realize that her mother and husband seem clueless when it comes to taking care of her (and in many ways, the household). Maribeth feels overwhelmed and frustrated. Angry at her husband, Jason, she packs a bag and flees her husband and the twins, basically starting her life over in another city. Once there, Maribeth makes new friends and starts a search for her own birth mother. But obviously she has left behind unresolved issues in New York, such as her husband and family. (Minor issue, right?)
Wow, this is quite a book, and honestly, I'm still processing some of my feelings about it. I've previously read two of Forman's YA novels (both of which I enjoyed), but this was my first time reading her foray into general fiction. For me, this book really hit home, considering I am an overworked mother of four-year-old twins, who juggles work and motherhood much like Maribeth. Lucky for me, my spouse isn't clueless like Maribeth's husband (in fact: she's lovely). I also don't have a mother who is basically totally worthless; I mean, seriously, how pathetic is Maribeth's mom? Can these people not help the woman mere weeks after she's had a freaking heart attack? The whole episode where Meredith's kids have lice and her spouse and mother flake on her had me completely stressed out.
In fact, there were honestly times reading this book that I felt my own heart hurting, both from Forman's realistic description of Maribeth's cardiac attack, as well as from the stressful scenario she's in. Forman does an excellent job of conveying the pressure Maribeth is under and the frustration she feels in her life--overwhelmed, alone, trapped, desperate. What mother hasn't felt that way at some point, and truly, what mother hasn't wanted to run away at times?
My issue with this book is that Maribeth actually does run away. It's really hard to believe she'd actually leave her kids - not for a week or two - but for a good chunk of time (and taking a sizable chunk of her family's savings with her). But, while I really didn't agree with all of her choices (they didn't truly seem realistic), I have to admit, I found myself liking the book in spite of them. The life Maribeth creates for herself away from her family is unique and readable, and her world away is compelling. My only beef: should a woman really have to leave to try to get her spouse to appreciate all she does? I am not totally sure I agree with the message.
Overall, this book is different. It's not your typical contemporary fiction, but it's certainly worth reading. 3.5 stars (and leaves you thinking).
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 9/6.
You can read my review of Forman's YA novel WHERE SHE WENT here.
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