Customer Reviews: Leaving Atlanta
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on August 30, 2002
Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones wonderful debut novel, brings to life one of the most terrible periods in Atlanta's history, the time when a serial killer was snatching and murdering children at the rate of one a month. While much has been written and said about the hunt for the killer, his probable motives, the impact on the city's image, this book takes a completely different approach by taking us back to that time through the eyes of the children who lived through it. Their fear, their vulnerability and their absolute "kidness" even in the face of the horror all around them come through clearly in Jones' book. Without sensationalizing the story in any way, she makes you feel the children's fear of a new crossing guard, even if he is an emissary from the guardian angels, come south to protect them. Jones' has a gift for the dialogue of her youthful characters and never strikes a false note when they talk to each other or to the adults scrambling to protect them. A pleasure to read and a unique perspective on those terrible times that still haunt all of us who could not find a way to protect our children from a danger we will never understand.
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on August 13, 2002
Leaving Atlanta is a must-read novel that exudes with honesty, compassion, and literary beauty. Told in alternate voices from school-aged kids who give their account of the time period during the Atlanta child disappearances, the story treads through the familiar: moms who lie, fathers who try to protect and secure their family, kids who belittle each other one day, and kids who befriend each other when they have nobody else to talk to. Tayari Jones is a talented writer who employs simple yet profound prose to tell her story. Leaving Atlanta is a wonderful accomplishment, a novel that speaks to the heart and mind of kids and grown-ups alike.
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on September 2, 2002
I lived in Atlanta during the time of the real-life Atlanta Child Murders. I was the father of a son and daughter who were about the age of the children who are the main characters in this novel. At that time, all I could think about was keeping them safe. I never wondered what they were thinking during this time until I read this arresting new novel.
LEAVING ATLANTA gives voice to the thoughts of a generation. I felt like I was reliving this time, but this time, I had a better understanding of my children. This is a must read for any and all parents.
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on September 1, 2002
Leaving Atlanta is an absolutely awesome reading experience. Who can forget the child abductions and murders in Atlanta in 1979? It was a fearful and trying time for all, but for the children, who lived in Atlanta, it had to be one of the most frightening things they experienced. The author Tayari Jones does an excellent job of getting into the minds and thoughts of the children as they try to process what was happening to these children, and more so when the victim was someone they knew.
For the children in this book, Tasha, Rodney and Octavia, being in the fifth grade is hard. They surely had enough on their minds just with trying to fit in, make friends, puberty, and pleasing their parents. All the parents are talking about the child murders and trying to figure out how to keep their children safe.
Each child story is unique, each living environment different, but with each child there is that vulnerability which made you just want to wrap your arms around them and shelter them from all that was bad. This moving novel is one that I will be highly recommending. I will be on the lookout for future books by this author.
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on July 17, 2013
In reading yet another captivating book by Tayari Jones I must say that these were two very real and thoughtful stories that grabbed my mind and heart. I am white and it was so interesting to see the VERY SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCES in how we look at life..Rich or poor..Black or white...These kids in this story were about the same age as the kids my daughter teaches. Her students are mostly in the projects with VERY few "fancy kids with money".. She and I had a good dialog about her class and the feelings of free or reduced lunch, and were they comparing themselves to others as in the book. TO KNOW THAT THIS WAS BASED on REAL life events just broke my heart as I got to know the characters in the story....Diffinately worth your time to read and absorb this first and awesome first novel for Me Jones... Ready to read the next one...It was over before I was ready for it to be!!!!!!
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on July 19, 2013
In Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones I did find some of the characters easy to relate to from that particular era because I was around the same age that this story was told. So that wasn't really the issue with me. What didn't work for me was that the book was told in segments that focused on one particular household; their family life; and how the murders affected them. So it was almost like you were reading a series of novella's that required you to start all over with getting the back story about the family and then seeing where it lead to. I think the book would have been better if it were written as a continuous novel where the reader would have learned about each of the families from the beginning to the end where the story could have unfolded better. About half of the dialog really wasn't beneficial to the story line at all for me. If you understood the make up of Black families back then the scenes that were described made sense but you really didn't get a sense of where the story was going with most of the families. The story about Rodney's family is told in second person and it really didn't flow well with the other segments to me. I also didn't feel like I received a full story because you never really learned how the aftermath of these disappearances and murders affect all of the characters in the book at the very end.

I think some people may enjoy this book. But for me, I felt that the book didn't really get as deep as it could have because it was written in segments instead of a continuous story. Because the book focused mainly on the children that were affected by their classmates disappearances and murders and was written from their point of view, I'm wondering if this book would have been better served in the Young Adult section.

I think Leaving Atlanta was just an okay read. I would give another one of Ms. Jones' books a try. I think that some readers may actually like the book and should read it if the synopsis appeals to them.

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on August 9, 2002
Every one who has been a child will recognize the children in Leaving Atlanta. The expert crafting of language here disappears the writer, and we are left with the voices, thoughts and fears of fifth graders.
Not rendered wunderkind who figure it all out, and philosophize about the meaning of childhood, difference, or death; or morally superior because of their circumstances-- these kids are just kids, and we immediately care what happens to each of them, from page one. Concerns about who will be invited to a sleepover, a first flirtation at the roller rink, or the anxiety of recognizing that you `have' (a pretty pink coat), or `have not' (new shoes, or breakfast-evidenced by your presence at school hours before its' start to receive free lunch) often crowd out, for a time, the horrible backdrop of what we have come to know as "the Atlanta child murders."
This brilliant first novel is not even about the child murders, as such. The ongoing issues of black life in America, including the murders, however, provide a context for its' subtle, even funny, but always incisive commentary on class, race, and gender in the US . The early work of Morrison immediately comes to mind.
Jones has captured something very rare here. On the one hand there is a sweet-- even fairly "universal"-- coming of age narrative. The quotidian concerns of these fifth graders become our concerns-- what before reading this book we may have thought of as the petty details out of which children's lives are made. At the same time the reader is drawn so deeply into the unutterable questions 'who will be next?' and 'who will be saved?' that Leaving Atlanta is a formidable page turning, breath holding novel that defies easy description, but is wholly intellectually and emotionally satisfying, at the same time.
I will use it in teaching university undergraduates, as well as suggest it for leisure reading for adults and teens. This is a smart book-real literature-- whose economy of language and readability make it appropriate for a wide range of readers.
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on August 14, 2015
I have read other books by Tayari Jones and enjoyed them. Leaving Atlanta was by far the worse written book by the author. The book ended without a conclusion. It was like she was tired of writing so she just stopped and ended the book. I was left wondering what happened to the characters, who was the kidnapper, was he ever captured? Although I loved her other books I would not recommend "Leaving Atlanta". I hate giving bad reviews to books, but this book really bothered me.
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on December 27, 2011
I finished this book in 24 hours over Christmas. Could not put it down. Extremely fast read, well written. Super interesting. Also, I had never heard of the Atlanta Child Murders before searching out Tayari Jones' other books. "Silver Sparrow" is another great read of hers, also took less than 2 days. I highly recommend both.
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on March 3, 2013
Childhood is a difficult enough time. It is a minefield period where a wrong pair of sneakers or the lack of an invitation to a sleepover can appear an unendurable traumas. The characters in Leaving Atlanta well know such dangers. The novel follows three fifth grades through a few months in 1980’s Atlanta as they undergo the daily perils of school. One of the kids Tasha is falling from popularity, another Rodney is enduring a nightmarish home life, while the third Octavia is entirely loveable while being a social outcast to all the students in her school. As if being in the fifth grade and being poor was not enough, the kids are coming of age during the Missing and Murdered Children’s killing spree where young African-American children were targeted and killed. A wrong decision doesn’t just mean having to sit alone at lunch, it can mean never making it home.

Tayari Jones has chosen a weighty and difficult topic for her first novel. And while there are things I found a bit off-as another reviewer points out the children are simply to precocious and too aware to be fifth graders… In spite of this the book remains absorbing and the characters aching sympathetic. Jones has a real feel for the social hierarchy of schools where the table where someone is invited to sit in a lunchroom tells you so much about their popularity of lack thereof. She also grounds the narrative in the day to day rhythms of life-what the kids eat for lunch, the trips to corner stores, the walks to and from school. Thus when the violence creeps in it becomes all the more shocking because the characters were simply following daily patterns at a time when the routines fell apart amid violence and death. I also liked the way she depicted the kids’ growing recognition of the fragility of their parents’ assurances and protection amidst a utterly changed environment.

My only real complaint is I feel the book ended a tad abruptly. I would like to have seen at least an epilogue showing what happened. Perhaps though that was Jones’ point... The missing and murdered case simply upended these kids’ lives and defied easy answers. Maybe Leaving Atlanta suggests life just won’t ever be the same again. I won’t soon forget these three kids and will eagerly read Tayari Jones future work.
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