'Leaving the World'
By Douglas Kennedy
Published: Atria; June 2010
Synopsis: Kennedy's ninth novel is a complex study of a line early in the book: nobody gets away lightly in life. On the morning after narrator Jane Howard's 13th birthday, her father, citing Jane's comment that No one's actually happy, walks out on the family. Jane shuts down emotionally, but excels academically and while at Harvard begins an affair with her married thesis adviser, David, which ends four years later when he's killed in an accident. Moving on from making big bucks in finance, Jane ends up teaching at a third-tier university in Boston where she falls in love and has a daughter with film archivist Theo, who along with his new paramour, cheats Jane out of most of her savings. Life only gets harder, until, just when Jane is ready to give up, she gets involved in a child-murder investigation in Calgary, Canada. Jane is a quintessential heroine who never makes excuses or wallows in self-pity, despite her grief. Episodically structured yet with a strong narrative drive, this is a book with lasting impact: powerful, provocative, and tender. - From Publisher's Weekly
My Take: I've never read a book by Douglas Kennedy and I always find it interesting when male authors take the point of view of a female lead character. I don't know why but I think it that it would be difficult to get into our psyche and write it well and vice versa. When I picked up this book and looked at this cover I didn't know if it would be 'chick lit' but quickly discovered that it most certainly wasn't, if only for the sheer fact that it was drama, drama, drama throughout. This book deals with heartbreak on a scale that I haven't read in quite some time and left me reeling about what to say about it for a couple of days.
A lot happened in this book. A lot that was central to the story and a lot that I am not sure necessarily was. We were with Jane, our heroine for a large portion of her life. We first met her when she was 13. Let's just say her parents suck on scale that is so grand it's hard to grasp that they were allowed to continue to raise her. Her parents got a divorce, and basically her mom blamed Jane for the divorce until the day her mother died. It was categorically not Jane's fault. This made Jane say that she never wished to have children. Famous last words and all that.
We then meet Jane when she is graduate school. She is academically brilliant. Studies hard and earns degrees but not her parents love and respect. Let me cut to the chase here because I could go on for miles and it's hard to kind of formulate my thoughts here because there is so much I could say. I think there is an old adage that life only throws you whatever you can handle but I do think life threw Jane a little more than was necessary. Without giving too much away, it was hard for her to find love in her life and get close to people because so much of it was taken away.
The crux of the story is this: Jane wants to leave the world. Why does she want to do so? Something horrendous happens to her. You don't even find that out until you are about 3/4 of the way through the book so stick with it because if you are like me you will find that the book jumps points a lot. You feel like you are moving along on one train and then you there is a major diversion and something serious happens and now the plot is moving onto something else. This happened probably half a dozen times. Honestly, this bothered me. The whole point of the story could have been tied up much faster and we still would have sympathized with Jane without all of the extra twists and turns I think because sometimes they just seemed extraneous and almost to prove the authors knowledge of all kinds of random things. I mean seriously this book takes us on a journey like I couldn't have expected. However, don't get me wrong, I was rooting for Jane and I wanted her to survive this. At the core, I could totally relate to a book dealing with how one handles grief. The problem is there was just so much other stuff too!
(I got this book from Crazy Book Tours)