Title: Leaving the World
Author: Douglas Kennedy
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.
My Rating: 3 Crowns
Synopsis: On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Jane Howard made a vow to her warring parents: she would never get married, and she would never have children. But life, as Jane comes to discover, is a profoundly random business.
Many years and many lives later, she is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo. And then Jane becomes pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise -- but when a devastating turn of events tears her existence apart she has no choice but to flee all she knows and leave the world.
Just when she has renounced life itself, the disappearance of a young girl pulls her back from the edge and into an obsessive search for some sort of personal redemption. Convinced that she knows more about the case than the police do, she is forced to make a decision -- stay hidden or bring to light a shattering truth.
Leaving the World is a riveting portrait of a brilliant woman that reflects the way we live now, of the many routes we follow in the course of a single life, and of the arbitrary nature of destiny. A critically acclaimed international bestseller, it is also a compulsive read and one that speaks volumes about the dilemmas we face in trying to navigate our way through all that fate throws in our path.
My Review: Wow, this book. I’m not even sure I know how to review it, to be honest. While I started it with no real expectations, I found myself on multiple occasions thinking, “This is so not what I expected.” Which is a pretty hard thing to say, since I didn’t really expect anything.
I will say that I liked it, and at the same time say that I felt like someone had punched me several times during the course of the novel. Jane’s childhood and relationship with her parents by itself is a sad story, one that had me crying on multiple occasions. On top of that, we get to see just how much that childhood can reach into adulthood and continue to affect someone. Furthermore, there are all kinds of other horrible things that Jane has to encounter – and it was almost too much for this reader.
I’ve said before that I can be a sensitive consumer of all entertainment: you show me a touching show, commercial, play some music for me, I will be crying. I give this as a disclaimer to say that for a reader who is less sensitive than I am, you’ll probably be able to get through this one more easily. This is not to say that I think other sensitive readers should avoid it – on the contrary, I think this is a great novel that we can all benefit in some way from reading. I just want to give a warning to those who may have a more emotional palate.
Through the events of the novel, I kept coming back to the thoughts I had about Jane’s relationship with her mother, and how in many ways I see parallels to my relationship with my own mother in it. This was one of those books that took me inside myself on multiple occasions, which can be good for the soul at times.
I found it to be a reasonably fast read, although there were times that some of the mundane details bogged me down a bit. That being said, I read the whole thing in the matter of a couple of days, and probably would have finished it more quickly if I didn’t have a pesky job to get in the way.
With that in mind, it is heavy reading and I think even the most seasoned, non-emotional reader is going to tear up a few times. There are some hard concepts in this one, something I wouldn’t shy away from but I feel everyone should be prepared for that. I really feel that this author understands loss, and if not, is very good at pretending he does.
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