When I was in grad school, I would make the drive between Champaign, IL and my parents’ condo in in downtown Chicago fairly regularly. And heading back into Central Illinois, I’d start to see signs for Memphis. If I stayed on the highway another seven hours or so I could be in Memphis. I joked about it with my boyfriend at the time that if our graduate school studies became too much we could run away to Memphis. And on a few particularly hard days, the thought I *could* runaway to Memphis would come back to me. So that’s what I thought of when I started reading this book. (Side note: still haven’t been to Memphis. Still seven hours away!)
Maribeth is a mother, wife, and pretty frazzled magazine editor in New York. Her four-year-old twins are an understandable handful, her job is taxing, and her husband doesn’t quite know how to balance his job with home life. But then again, neither does she. When she’s suddenly hospitalized for a heart attack at age forty-four a lot of other issues suddenly come to a head, and as Maribeth recuperates at home she finds that she is not getting the support she feels she needs to get better, and her life presses down on her. And on a whim she packs a bag and heads to Penn Station. She runs away.
It’s a delicate thing, when YA authors attempt adult novels. Gayle Forman is perhaps most well known for her book If I Stay, which made me weep. I enjoy a number of YA writers, but I approach their adult books tepidly. This one, I thought, found the right balance of not sounding too young while still being light enough for an afternoon read. There’s a lightness and a style in the writing that transfers from the YA genre. For instance, as Maribeth creates a new social network for herself, her new friends have their own special quirks that the good YA writers tend to particularly excel at. And the plot is probably a little more simplified than one might expect from an adult novel, but I still got so swept up in the story that I could overlook any perceived faults like that. I think it aided to the escapism we look for in books like this.
This book pairs well with fellow YA author Rainbow Rowell’s adult novel Landline – two working mothers and wives who find themselves in a crisis of sorts that causes them to reevaluate their lives. And while the husband in Landline is a more developed character than the one in Leave Me, both husbands have traits that are redeeming and attractive while still having their own faults. (The husband in Leave Me reminds me of the men I’ve fallen in love with, so perhaps I’m biased.) You’ll probably recognize yourself or your friends and family in these characters. And looking at the behaviors and patterns that developed for Maribeth to get to a breaking point of needing to runaway might give you some pause to consider if your life is in a similar trajectory.
There’s some language in it, and a handful of scenes that maybe toe the line with what we might consider acceptable behavior, but nothing graphic and it certainly didn’t detract. I zipped through this book a lot faster than I thought I would, and felt enough warm and fuzzies mixed with slight dread to make for a successful and enjoyable read. I nearly read this in one sitting. Give yourself a well-deserved break and give this one a read!