Gayle Forman, known for her award-winning YA novels, has written an adult novel, Leave Me (Algonquin), about a 40-something harried working mother who has a heart attack. Forman's move to adult fiction was not difficult, she explains: "Same excavation of character and emotional truth, draft by draft. Less sex in the adult novel, though. It's about a middle-aged married couple, and I write realistic fiction."
Maribeth, after attempting to recuperate with little help from her overly reliant family (including her clueless mother), packs a duffle, withdraws cash and leaves for Pittsburgh. Fantasies about leaving are common; Forman runs away all the time--"only in my family, it's called book tour. Book tours are often grueling, but while I'm on one, I have the pleasure of completing a job, getting positive feedback for it, not having to deal with anyone's meals or mood swings. Plus, long uninterrupted showers and room-service breakfast. Business trips are the working mothers' little secret."
Pittsburgh may hold the key to Maribeth's past--she was adopted, as was Forman's younger daughter. "Her story is not Maribeth's, but the ever-tender spot of being left by a mother is something she helped me understand." Forman also understands the nature of friendships and how they change, exploring Maribeth's sorrow at the loss of closeness with her friend, and now boss, Elizabeth.
I asked her how to become aware of stress in our seemingly normal lives without a wake-up call like Maribeth's: "Umm, by listening to ourselves and realizing that feeling exhausted and stressed all day, every day is neither normal nor a badge of honor. It's a crappy situation, and one that should be, if possible--and there are lots of things that prevent it from being possible for many women, such as lack of affordable childcare or inflexible job situations--remedied."
I loved Leave Me, but wanted to slap Maribeth's mother. "Oh, honey, you and me both." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers