Leave Me

BookReview

Review: Marla Cantrell
By Gayle Forman | Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill | 340 pages | $26.95

Maribeth Klein doesn’t have time for a heart attack. She works for a New York magazine named Frap where deadlines don’t stop for any reason. She has four-year-old twins, Oscar and Liv, who need her attention to thrive. She has a husband whose life seems much simpler than hers since he’s not burdened by all the responsibility Maribeth feels twenty-four hours a day.

So when her chest twitches, she thinks the cause might be anxiety. When nausea ensues, Maribeth blames the Chinese food she’s just eaten. At forty-four years old, she can’t imagine her heart might be to blame.

And that’s why she ignores the symptoms. Luckily, she has an appointment the next day with her ob-gyn, and when her doctor sees her, she sends Maribeth to the hospital where she’s told she has indeed had a heart attack.

After a harrowing stay, she’s back at home, unable to rest the way she’s supposed to. The kids bring her books to read to them and wonder when she’s going to get dinner on the table. Her husband Jason seems not to understand how sick she is and returns to work as soon as he can. He brings in Maribeth’s mother, who’s not fond of cooking and cleaning. Who becomes just another person for Maribeth to tend.

Which is why, on a day when Maribeth feels as if she can’t go on, she withdraws a chunk of cash from the bank and walks away. She doesn’t have a plan in place, just a survivalist’s need to find somewhere to heal. Staying at home, she realizes, might kill her.

In the days that follow, she rents a stark apartment in Pittsburg in a neighborhood she’s never seen before. She’d left behind her phone and computer in New York, so she has little to do but read and think.

The guilt she feels is immeasurable. Each day, she writes her children, telling them what she loves most about them, although she never mails the letters. She develops a friendship with her two neighbors, a young man and woman who don’t pry, who don’t ask questions about where she’s from, or what demons she might be fighting.

Maribeth finds a doctor to treat her, a man who befriends her, teaching her how to relax and laugh again. She meets a woman who has secrets of her own, and through her, we get to know more about Maribeth’s back story, before her marriage, before her kids.

It is in this time of self-reflection that Maribeth’s broken heart starts to heal. The question that remains is what that means for her future. Will she stay gone forever? Will the pull of her old life bring her back to her family and the life that was doing her in? And if she does return, what will be different?

The answers make Leave Me a thought-provoking novel, and one that will have you pulling for this woman who’s working so hard to pull her life back together after such a great fall.

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