Maribeth Klein has it all—and that’s the problem.
The main character in Gayle Forman’s absorbing first adult novel has a career, family and a home in a Manhattan zip code so desirable “it seemed as if even the nannies have nannies.” Juggling all of these responsibilities has left Maribeth “overtaxed and overburdened, but show her a working mother who wasn’t.” So, when Maribeth feels twinges in her chest, she thinks she’s merely eaten something bad or is feeling the pressure from her latest deadline at work. But it turns out she has had a heart attack.
Things go from bad to worse when, following surgery and a hospital stay, Maribeth’s family seems to expect her to return to the same demanding and stressful routine: “dancing on a surfboard, juggling knives, while they all went about business as usual.” So Maribeth simply takes off. She heads from New York City to Pittsburgh, for reasons that Forman slowly but skillfully makes clear. Once in Pittsburgh, Maribeth takes up with a younger set of neighbors and an older doctor, who help her come to terms with what she’s left behind. But a more glaring revelation awaits, providing Leave Me with some of its most tender moments.
Occasionally, Forman’s dialogue is a little clunky and her attempts to balance comedy and drama don’t always work, though she is to be credited for exploring the lighter side of some rather dark material. Ultimately, Leave Me deftly explores the domestic struggles of 21st-century bourgeois life. This is an insightful ode to—and cautionary tale for—the overburdened working mother.