Title: If You Left
Author: Ashley Prentice Norton
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publish Date: June 14, 2016
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "For most of their
marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic
states — what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions” — and Oliver has
been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea
decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving,
sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their
nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their
Easthampton home once school is out — with no “summer girl” to care for
her this time — and become “normal.”
But Oliver is distant and
controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a
bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to
know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene
enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace–reading house painter, who
reaches something in Althea that has been long buried."
My Two Cents:
"If You Left" is the story of Althea, a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. She is married to Oliver, a man who up until recently has seemed to tolerate Althea's illness well. Sure, he cheats on her constantly and approaches women in front of her but he seems to not be bothered by her illness and the way she acts. A lot of the book centers on Althea falling apart when she thinks her marriage may finally be over and she takes a lover of her own.
Althea is a fascinating character. I really liked how realistic the author made her diagnosis feel. The author uses a lot of detail about what happens to Althea when she is in her manic phase, what she calls "the Visions" and when she is in her depressed phase, which she calls "the Tombs." The author gives an unflinching look at what it is like for someone who has mental illness like Althea to navigate relationships like all of us must to keep our personal lives afloat.
The writing of the book is sometimes a bit difficult to get through. The book flashes back and forth between who holds the point of view. None of the dialogue is in quotations and either precedes or follows Althea's inner thoughts making for some confusing reading in many cases! Overall, the main character is fascinating but the writing holds this story back a bit.