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Coming Back to Me: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When book designer Gary Breyer and third-grade teacher Molly Goldman meet at a New Jersey diner, it's love at first sight in Leavitt's (Living Other Lives) latest drama. Gary's parents were killed in a freak accident when he was a baby; Molly's only family is an older sister, Suzanne, who ran away from home at 17 and hasn't been seen since. The sisters' few conversations consist of Suzanne calling to borrow money Molly can't afford to give her; when she finally refuses, Suzanne drops off the radar for good. Gary and Molly wed after a brief courtship, buy a home and are delighted at the birth of their son, Otis at last they feel like members of a "normal" family. But their joy is short-lived: while still in the hospital, Molly becomes gravely ill and falls into a coma, leaving Gary to care for Otis with the help of dour, flaky, live-in nurse Gerta. Then Gary loses his job. Desperate and facing astronomical medical bills, he contacts Suzanne and asks her to return to New Jersey from California to help with the baby. Broke and alone, she accepts. At first her selfishness and utter incompetence strain credibility, but her sudden transformation to conscientious, doting aunt, while inevitable, seems equally implausible. The narrative, told from the shifting perspectives of the three principals, is peppered with bland, disagreeable secondary characters creepy neighbors, an arrogant doctor and Suzanne's ex-boyfriend, Ivan. There's little here to hold readers' interest even the drama of Molly's illness and mounting tensions between Gary and Suzanne lack suspense and the reward for having to endure these people never comes: the unsatisfying ending leaves too many issues unresolved. (Apr.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Gary and Molly's joy at becoming parents comes to a quick and devastating end when Otis's birth leaves Molly with a life-threatening medical condition. To make matters worse, just when he most needs work to pay Molly's astronomical medical bills, Gary is fired from the publishing company in whose art department he works. In desperation, he calls Molly's long-estranged sister, Suzanne, to return to New Jersey and care for the baby while he spends his days at the hospital with the comatose and desperately ill Molly and his nights at his new job as a security guard. When Molly finally awakens and learns the extent of her illness, she realizes that the fragility of existence (with or without a potentially fatal illness) means that it's important to live every moment fully. Leavitt (Living Other Lives) has a talent for creating believable characters whose problems touch the reader's heart. With its tug-at-the-heartstrings plot, this novel sometimes teeters on the brink of melodrama, but Leavitt is a good enough writer to keep it from dissolving into suds. Recommended for all public library fiction collections.DNancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312305540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312305543
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,709,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
COMING BACK TO ME by Carolyn Leavitt is everything I want a novel to be. The story is told as a narrative in a way that you know how each person thinks and feels. I found myself captured by the essence of the story, by the sadness as Molly is insidiously abandoned by her mother and her sister, by the joy that Gary brings back into her life. I've never read any of Carolyn Leavitt's books before and might not have noticed this one had it not been for the cover. At first, I thought it was one of those shallow stories about a woman who has a baby and gets sick and is then miraculously cured. This book is anything but shallow. It's very real and very good. I was reminded of Alice Hoffman's style, the words wrapping around me like a friendly voice, Leavitt's phrases pleasing me like a warm cup of tea. There were nights when I would wake up after midnight thinking of Molly and Gary and Otis. I'd turn on the light and reach for COMING BACK TO ME to read a few pages before I'd fall back to sleep again.
If you like Elizabeth Berg, Cathie Pelletier, Anita Shreve, or Alice Hoffman, you deserve to give yourself a gift by reading this book.
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By A Customer on March 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What I loved about this book, besides getting so immersed with the characters' lives, was the fact that they were so real and filled with life. Gary, Molly, Suzanne, and Otis had their own stories, thoughts, and feelings, which were all woven together beautifully. I thought the author wrote a lovely story about what it would feel like to go from an extremely happy situation to a scary, unknown nightmare. Images stand out in my mind, such as the feeling Gary had when he walked into Otis' room right after Molly got ill and saw the blanket she had special ordered and nearly fell apart. I felt horrible when Ivan left the car to get cigarettes and left Otis in the car. There were images, pieces of conversation, and emotions that were so vivid that any reader, whether or not they have been through a similiar situation, could relate to. It's rare when an author can make me forget about my own life and immerse me so deeply in a piece of writing, which is why I give this novel five stars. I wish I could give it more, but there aren't enough to show how much I appreciate this novel and the excellent work the author displayed.
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Format: Hardcover
Caroline Leavitt's new book is her best yet. At once a love story, a survival story, and the reunion of two sisters, I could not put it down. Her clear, heartfelt description of a new mother's descent into the vortex of illness is harrowing. But she skillfully brings in a cast of characters to impel the reader to continue along--Gary, Molly's husband--where do we order guys like that? Suzanne, Molly's wild sister--finally sees the light courtesy baby Otis--that tiny wise man a baby nurses insists speaks to him. Much to admire here. Wish I didn't have to wait a year for another book from Ms. Leavitt. A must read for all women--and the very smartest of men.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I stayed up all night reading this. From the first chapter, Caroline Leavitt's writing style captivated me like a delicious bar of chocolate I could not bear to put down. The characters of first Gary, and then Suzanne had such clear voices, I feel as if I know them. As if I've had a peek into their lives. I found that I was privately rooting for Suzanne to "pull through" just as much as I was rooting for Molly. One thing this book illustrates is how each one of us copes with stress in different ways: Gary, plodding along on 'auto-pilot', Suzanne rebelliously smoking in the house while mentally muttering to herself about how unfair her life has been, the neighbors remaining withdrawn, almost invisible (yet, as it turns out, helping in their own clandestine ways), the doctors all the while fueling the frustration by admittedly not knowing what's wrong with Molly.....and Molly, poor Molly, perhaps proving herself to be the strongest of them all, excepting of course for baby Otis. Hope paves the way to faith in this frighteningly realistic (and from what I could gather by the hints dropped in the acknowledgements section, semi-autobiographical) story, and anger, fear and over-reactions give way to compassion and forgiveness. I look forward to reading another Caroline Leavitt novel!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. I've read it twice but I had a totally different take on the second read. As an adoptive mom, I could identify with all the characters and yes we who adopt are older and maybe less hip but mainly I felt the ending wasn't the real ending and that the girl in the middle of the story, the adoptee, would resume relations with her wonderful birth parents after a hiatus when she returns home with her adoptive parents. I give this five stars as "Coming Home to Me" is just wonderful and fully realized. I love all of Caroline Leavitt's books but I think this one is her masterpiece. 5 big stars!
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Format: Hardcover
I have read every single one of Caroline Leavitt's novels, and find her a wonderful writer who creates memorable characters and plots. The writing, itself, is always lovely -- particular phrases and images jump out like perfect little gems -- but what remains long after I've finished reading the book is the story. Leavitt is a master storyteller.
And her latest, "Coming Back to Me," is as satisfying a read as I've come to expect. How satisfying? I chose to read it instead of watching The Academy Awards, and that's saying something! And I was so involved in the story -- so engaged by the characters, who felt so real, and the twists and turns of the plot -- that I had to stop reading it a few hours before bedtime, or else I couldn't fall asleep. I highly recommend "Coming Back to Me," not only for long-time Leavitt fans, but for readers who are searching for a novel that's so wonderfully human.
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