Leave Me by Gayle Forman
Published: September 2016
Genre: women’s fiction
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–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.
Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we’re going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.
Maribeth Klein is too busy to notice all the symptoms she’s experiencing point to a heart attack. During an annual doctor visit, Maribeth is sent straight to the hospital for an emergency bypass surgery. When she’s discharged under strict orders to not overexert herself, her family seems to think not being in the hospital is the equivalent of being well — and her stress levels rise exponentially. So she does the unthinkable: packs up and runs away. But as Maribeth finds the peace she so desperately needed, how will she ever go back to her family after what she’s done?
I began this book when my mother went into the hospital this month, and ended it when she came home after her prolonged stay. While I’m not a mother, having had to deal with house and home, errands and bills, dog and cat care, an already ailing father, and two jobs, I’d like to think I have a smidgen of an idea of what Maribeth experienced pre- and post-surgery. In fact, I think just about any working woman can relate to Maribeth’s experience.
She felt so caught out. She’d thought she’d done everything right.
She spent her entire life making lists, following through,
keeping everything in check, all to make sure this kind of thing
would never happen.
And look where it had gotten her. Just fucking look.
In so many stories, disappearing parents are painted as the villain. We hardly hear their excuse as to why they left the family, and when we do it’s at the very end of the novel. As readers we have only an ounce of sympathy for them. Why? Because as a general rule, parents should not leave their children.
But Maribeth does. She leaves life’s obligations behind to start fresh. Gayle Forman introduces us to a very relatable and sympathetic character — hardworking, driven, compassionate, and extremely tired — with the first third of the book dedicated to her daily experiences pre- and post-bypass. We know what it’s like to be Jason, her husband, relentlessly hopeful and optimistic that her homecoming from the hospital means she’s well. We were once Liv and Oscar, the sweet twins that are still young enough to throw tantrums and not understand just how much words and actions can truly hurt. Maribeth’s voice in her family is completely lost, and stress levels rise to a point where the fantasy of packing up and leaving all responsibility behind becomes a reality.
She was in free fall now. And it wasn’t killing her. In fact,
she was beginning to wonder if she might’ve had it backwards.
All that fixating on the fall…maybe she should’ve been
paying more attention to the free.
Maribeth’s journey to Pittsburgh and all the people she meets — adorably funny college neighbors Todd and Sunny, sweet cardiologist Stephen and his dark history, and enthusiastic birth-mother-hunting Janice — help her calm down, revitalize, reevaluate, and heal inside and out. I fell in love with Forman’s writing all over again, and every step of Maribeth’s journey felt sure, raw, and honest. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation of all her decisions, and simultaneously relaxed, like I was leisurely catching up with an old friend.
In short, I will follow Forman for the rest of her career, hands down.
And forever and always thank my mother for all she’s done for our family.
This book qualifies as book 10 of 10 library books in 2016. Challenge completed!