Book Review – Leave Me by Gayle Forman


This review was a wee bit delayed, I was hoping to have it up earlier this week. My life is on overload at the moment, and it’s hard to catch my breath! We are undergoing a major bathroom renovation right now. It’s wonderful, and I hate to complain about having the ability to voluntarily spend money on beautifying our…ahem…potty room. But, it has also torn our home upside down! You see the Evil Queen above? I will freely admit there have been moments this week that I felt as if I was channeling the Evil Queen!

This introvert is not used to lovely, friendly contractors politely and cleanly traipsing in and out of my home All.Day.Long. I love them, I really do. Brian and Joe, the two workers here this week, are so nice and fun to chat with; and they are as minimally invasive as they can be while tearing down walls and re-situating HVAC venting and tearing up floors with a super-duper, incredibly loud drill of some type.

know you love sledge hammers and pulsing drills echoing through your brain all day, just as much as I do!

Today is also the first day of Early Voting here in North Carolina. Hip hip hooray, the end of election season is in sight! I only bring this up, because I volunteer as a poll watcher during elections, and this year I’m worried it will be…delightful. No, really, I mean that. Truly.

I enjoy being a poll watcher. I strongly believe in exercising our civic duty by voting, and I always like to share information with others, especially in a state which has yo-yo’d back and forth this past year with Early Voting locations, re-districting and gerrymandering, fluctuating days and times, and the whole debacle of whether or not you need an ID to vote (Supreme Court ruled – no ID needed!). So, people out there have questions, and I am happy to answer those questions, to make the process as easy as possible. I always meet such amazing, fascinating people while helping out at the polls. I just ask the crazies to stay away while I’m on duty. Pretty please?

All this is to say that currently, until November 8, my spare time is in very short supply. Therefore, my reviews may be a little shorter or more spread out than I would prefer!


Book: Leave Me

Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: Contemporary fiction

First of all, the cover! The colors are so bright and cheerful…and not reflective of Maribeth’s mood at all. But it does make me think of the two Pittsburgh roommates, Sunita and Todd, probably my two favorite characters in the whole story.

Book blurb:

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.

With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

Maribeth and I have a few things in common. We both have had surgery while parenting young children (in my case, only one child). Earlier this year, I had laparoscopic surgery to diagnose and treat endometriosis. Let me tell you, endometriosis is not fun, and it is something that I have been dealing with since my teenage years,  but that is a subject for another day.

Like Maribeth, I had an unhelpful parent. In my situation, my mother was conveniently unable to come help in the days following my surgery. Maribeth’s mom: WOW! Surprising, yet completely relatable. I understood her pain and frustration completely. I know all too well how annoying it can be to have a family member come to “help”, when in reality you end up with more work, while they are “helping”. Totally get that.

Like Maribeth, I was also adopted in Pennsylvania – a closed adoption just like hers, so I know a fair bit about the adoption laws and how they have changed in PA in recent years. Ironically, I went to college in Pittsburgh, at the University of Pittsburgh. I know and love Pittsburgh dearly, even though I haven’t lived there in quite a few years.

Unlike Maribeth, I had an incredibly supportive husband who always helps out around the house and with raising M, and went above and beyond during my surgery and recovery period, despite a grueling and time-consuming job as a general surgeon. He is fully present in the day-to-day of raising a child, as things should be in this day and age, and I love him dearly for it.

So, I have a lot of connections to the main character. This should have been a book that I adored. I did not adore it, although I will place it in the “like” category. Mainly, Maribeth annoyed me, from pretty early on in the novel. Yes, Jason – and her mother – should absolutely have taken on some of the responsibility. However, in her husband’s defense, Maribeth never says what she is really thinking, not even once. Yes, the burden is unfair to her, but speak up and tell him! As M @ A Blog of One’s Own says in her review, it is frustrating and childish. I completely agree. The intention of her impulsive escape to Pittsburgh is to fully recover from heart surgery, which is understandable, but it also feels like this is in part an untalked about mid-life crisis.

I appreciate this novel tackling the subject of a mother packing up and spontaneously leaving her family for personal reasons, and not painting her as a villain for it. Maribeth absolutely views herself as the villain at one point, but the story does not:

Sure, she’s written letters. But those letters would never appear in her movie. They would not be submitted as evidence to her defense, proof of her love, flawed though it might be right now.

In Maribeth’s made-for-TV movie, she was the villain.

The difficulties that she experience are real, and often left unsaid in today’s society. I appreciated Gayle Forman’s approach, as Maribeth is neither picture-perfect, nor perfectly evil. She is imperfect and true to life. However, I expected more depth to the story, to the pressures of working moms, and mothers with health issues, and the unrealistic and unhealthy expectations that are more-often that not placed upon them.

Rating: 3/5 stars.


9 thoughts on “Book Review – Leave Me by Gayle Forman

  1. Great review! I completely agree with everything you said. While I did feel with Maribeth and could relate to her struggles, I was also incredibly annoyed by her own behavior and her failure to communicate her issues. I also still love the premise of her leaving and all and I agree with you & think it’s great that that doesn’t automatically make her the villain of the story.
    Also.. wow! So many connections between you two 😀 Except for the husband. Congrats on having such a wonderful husband 😉

    • Yes! I would have loved to see Maribeth grow as a character more than she did. I did have a crazy amount of connections to Maribeth! It was kind of eerie. I have never done a search for my birth mother, but I have done an Ancestry DNA test.

  2. I am so glad you pointed out that Maribeth isn’t painted as a villain. I’ve read a lot of reviews on this book lately, and I’ve been so confused by how people interpret her character. I’m impressed by how many connections you have– and I’m happy you have a better husband. 😉 Great review!!

      • Someone at work just stopped by my desk today to talk about this book (mostly because they assumed I read it already). She is a divorced mom of two and can relate a lot to Maribeth, but still didn’t like her as a person. I believe the quote was, “Well, that’s certainly not what I would do given a second chance at this. Yikes.”
        I’ll read it some day and let you know how I feel about it. 😀

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