I’ve only read one previous book by the popular young adult novelist Gayle Forman and was surprised at how much I enjoyed I Was Here. In my review I mention that it touches on a lot of important themes. (As does the book-turned-movie, If I Stay, which I’ve seen but not read.)
Forman’s latest is her first book for ‘adults’ – to use the publisher’s vernacular – and its theme is certainly targetted at an audience conscious of commitments and responsibilities. Like many of her young adult novels, the notion or threat of death lies at the centre of this novel though it’s probably a little less weighty (theme-wise) than many of her previous books.
by Gayle Forman
Published by Simon & Schuster UK
on January 1st 1970
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Literary Fiction
Meet Maribeth Klein, a harried working mother who is so busy taking care of her husband and twins that she doesn’t even realise, working late one evening, that she has had a heart attack.
Afterwards, 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.
Far from the demands of family and career, and with the help of new friendships, she is finally able to own up to the secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.
Forman introduces us to Maribeth in the throes of the heart attack she doesn’t realise she’s having, so we’re privy to the busy-ness of her life. Her husband Jason’s job in the music industry allows him to follow his passion, but doesn’t pay well, so she’s the main breadwinner… working in the magazine industry. Their marriage is probably typical… there’s the strain of the cost of the kids schooling even though the twins are just starting out; and each is frustrated with the other, believing they’re doing the best they can but never measuring up.
The heart attack is Maribeth’s wake up call. It could easily be a cliche, but Forman avoids that. It does however, give Maribeth pause for thought as she contemplates her life. The blurb refers to Maribeth’s secrets… but I don’t really think they’re that. We learn very quickly that she was adopted at birth but has decided not to attempt to find her birth parents. Her heart attack – however – changes all of that.
There’s no one thing that causes Maribeth to pack her bags… rather it’s a culmination of many things, but her decision to travel to her birthplace is fairly significant.
The book’s not specifically about her search for her mother however. Maribeth’s time in Philadelphia involves a lot of soul searching and we learn more of her relationship with Jason and her history with her best friend Elizabeth.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t find the themes of this book as lofty / heavy as Forman’s YA novel/s, but they’re very real. Many MANY people will be able to relate to the parenting and relationship issues plaguing Maribeth and find themselves nodding at the seemingly infinite and impossible desire to achieve some balance in life. We’re also reminded how unresolved issues from our past can continue to plague us many years later.
Leave Me by Gayle Forman was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
Are you a fan of Forman’s work?