Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's Left Behind Review

What's Left Behind by Lorrie Thomson
Publication date: August 26, 2014 by Kensington Books
Source: Author/publisher for an honest review

When the person you’ve built your whole life around is gone, what do you do? It’s not the first time Abby Stone has faced the question. At eighteen, she envisioned a future with her childhood sweetheart, Charlie, only to have him go off to school and leave a pregnant Abby behind. But that pales beside a second loss, when her eighteen-year-old son, Luke, falls to his death from his third-floor dorm.
Abby throws herself into running her thriving B&B on the coast of Maine. With the help of Rob, a local landscape architect, she plans a backyard labyrinth as a memorial to Luke—a place to find peace and solace. Even as Charlie begins hanging around again, looking for a chance to do right by her, Abby resolves to look forward, not back. And then Luke’s girlfriend arrives on Abby’s doorstep—pregnant, as alone as Abby once was—bringing with her the unexpected gift of a new beginning, one that celebrates the past.

Rich in emotion and insight, this beautifully written novel explores the depth of a mother’s bond, resilience after unimaginable loss, and the way love’s memory can fill the gaps in a shattered heart.

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My Take:

What's Left Behind is Lorrie Thomson's second novel, and is a worthy successor to her first novel, Equilibrium.  While the novels are not related in any way, I once again found myself very emotionally invested in the protagonist of the novel. Thomson has proven that she can write about people in a way that really pulls at the reader's heart.

The novel begins with Abby basically still in shock after the death of her son from a fall from his dorm-room window. The devastation is palpable through the words on the page and I had to stop and start the book twice because it  was so painful. I have a college-age son and Abby's pain was all too believable. Once I forced myself to keep reading, I found myself drawn deeply into the lives of Abby, Lilly Beth, Rob, Charlie and Tessa. The three generations of single moms was an interesting aspect to the novel as well.

The reader gradually learns about Abby and how she basically raised Luke on her own, although she did have help from her mother, Lily Beth - also a single mother. Abby's childhood sweetheart, Charlie, ended up not being the guy she thought he was. Abby has a difficult time giving up on the idea of a relationship with Charlie even though it is apparent to everyone that he isn't going to be the stable kind of guy she needs. This relationship was the most troublesome for me - I just wanted to her move on from him. I did enjoy how the history of their relationship was described in depth, gradually, over the course of the book. I could understand the long history they had together and the loyalty still there from their childhood.

I was very intrigued to finally find out more about Lily Beth - she was such an enigma through most of the book. Once more was known about her history, it really altered my view of things.

The third single mom,Tessa, Luke's troubled new girlfriend, is a handful and in need of some emotional support. Her situation is difficult for a number of reasons, not least because her relationship with Luke was still new when he died. She also carries some guilty feelings regarding Luke's death, and is uncertain about what she should do about the baby.

I was really impressed at the way Thomson wove all these situations and more into a wonderful, emotional, thoughtful story that held my attention from start to finish. As usual, I found myself totally immersed in this world and the lives of the characters.

What's Left Behind is definitely high on my suggested books list. I enjoyed the book so much once I got past the heartbreak of the first chapter or two. Thomson is able to write such emotionally stirring, character- and relationship-driven books. I will be recommending it to everyone. If you like an emotionally satisfying novel about people and their relationships, healing and personal growth, then you should love What's Left Behind by Lorrie Thomson.

About the author

I grew up as an only child in the city of Boston and dreamed of living with a big family in an antique white New Englander, on a quiet street with neighbors who stopped for chats at the stonewall. I also dreamed of writing novels for a living. Let’s just say, if I’d known the power of visualization, I would’ve thrown in a mountain view. I’m working on it.
When my youngest child was three, I decided to pursue the writing dream for real, and got down to the hard work of putting words to paper. Three novels, and a mere ten years later, I got “the call” from my wonderful agent, telling me we had an offer for my debut novel and making my author dream come true.
I now live in New Hampshire with my husband and our three children. When I’m not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, they let me tag along for camping adventures, day-long paddles, and hikes up 4,000-footers, so I can get a taste of that coveted mountain view.

You can visit Lorrie's website here.

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