Gayle Forman is best known for her young adult books, especially her biggest best seller, If I Stay, which was made into a film. Leave Me is her first foray into the adult market, and I, and anyone else who reads it, will be very glad indeed.
Maribeth Klein is, I’m sorry to say, what we often think about when we think about 44-year-old working mothers. You know, the ones who have good jobs that force them to work more than 40 hours a week, and still keep up with all the household stuff like bills and shopping, and all the child care stuff. Not to disparage all those amazing husbands out there, my own included, who do half the parenting, we all know there are those who do not. And such is the case here.
Jason is a good husband and he helps out as best as he can. He’ll do whatever Maribeth asks of him, but she has to ask, and sometimes it is just easier to do it yourself. With pre-school age twins, it is particularly daunting. It is during a particularly stressful day that Maribeth suffers a heart attack; but she is so busy, and the symptoms for women are so different than they are for men, that it takes her about 24 hours to even notice. And even then, the only reason she ends up in the emergency room is because at her annual ob-gyn appointment, her blood pressure is really low, and they send her.
Under observation at the hospital, she learns she needs a stent, but due to complications ends up with a double bypass. We travel with Maribeth through this whole process, and it is engaging and emotional, especially for me. My husband had bypass surgery when he was 48 years old, so I was fascinated by this storyline plus it brought back a very painful time in my life.
After a week in the hospital, and a week at home, Maribeth’s family figures she is ready to take on everything again. And she tries, but she is exhausted. Truly exhausted down to the bone. Finally, she just snaps. She goes to the bank, withdraws a ton of cash, leaves her laptop and cellphone at home and takes off.
She ends up in Pittsburgh, where she was born. Maribeth was adopted and never really cared to find her birth mother. But the health issues changed that. She rents a small apartment, finds a local cardiologist who will take cash, and truly starts her recovery, part of which is finding her health history through her birth mother. And her relationship with her husband needs serious work, which in this case, is best done at a distance.
Forman has a real knack for creating characters that leap off the page and into life. This look at the leading killer of women, yes, more than breast cancer, is important. The exploration of a marriage is always interesting, and Forman does a really credible job here. This was a one night read for me, I couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss it.
Learn more about heart disease in women from Go Red for Women: “Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!”
9/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
LEAVE ME by Gayle Forman. Algonquin Books (September 6, 2016). ISBN 978-1616206178. 352p.