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If You Left Paperback – June 14, 2016
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
From the Back Cover
All relationships have their ups and downs. For Althea and Oliver Willow, the ups and downs are a bit . . . extreme.
Welcome to the bipolar marriage.
For most of their union, Althea has fluctuated between depressive and manic states what she calls the Tombs and the Visions and Oliver has been the steady hand. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different. Shell bring their nine-year-old daughter, Clem, to their Easthampton home once school is out with no summer girl to care for her this time and become the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother Clem deserves. But Oliver is distant and controlling, and Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallacereading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried.
Praise for the work of Ashley Prentice Norton
Gripping, vivid, and moving. Isabel Gillies
A truly gifted new voice in fiction. Jill Kargman
Darkly funny, compulsively readable.People
ASHLEY PRENTICE NORTON is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel The Chocolate Money, and a graduate of Exeter, Georgetown, and the creative writing program at New York University. She lives in New York with her husband and three children.
Top customer reviews
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Althea is a woman that has her problems. Not only is she stuck in a marriage that should have most likely ended years ago, but is also has a severe mental disorder that clouds her mind when things get too much to handle. In this book you will follow her down a path that, though paved with good intentions, tends to get more complicated as she moves forward. Her marriage is at times toxic and her relationship with her child is hanging on by a thread…if it was even there to begin with. She wants to make things right, but for this summer, Althea will make decisions that will change everything. The only real question is that when all is said and done, will Althea be end up where she wants to be?
I am going to be honest with you all. I had mixed feelings this book. I truly enjoyed the unique and forthright voice of Althea. There was something so fascinating about being inside this woman’s head. The mental dialog, second guessing her every feeling, and snide comments kept me flipping the pages to see what would happen next. She is a truly complex character. The author twisted and turned a story about a woman with bipolar disorder to create something that is a sincere and at points a bleak snapshot of her life. There is no sugar coating anything in this book. The author lays it all out there for everyone to see and in a way the story became very addictive to me.
However, I wanted more for her at the end. Don’t worry. There are no spoilers here. I will just say that I really hoped for a different turn of events for Althea, even if that was just in one small aspect of her life. Yet, there is a truth to the end of the book that respects the core fundamentals of who this characters is. Though I think many readers will find it a let down, I really felt that it did honor the character. In a way, this is how it should have ended…like it or not.
I know that there are reviews all over the board with this book and I think that is because this book is so unabashedly honest. Personally, I liked getting inside the characters’ heads and taking a look at their summer of change. I laughed at the dark humor. I was shocked by some of the actions and reactions to situations that were presented. All in all, I think that once I got beyond what I wanted for Althea, I could see the beauty behind this highly dysfunctional family.
This novel, despite being engaging and well-written, is tough to read. Taking such a realistic dive into the deep gray of an unhappy marriage, especially one seen from the view of someone struggling with bipolarism, is no vacation. There were many times that I felt almost as if I were doing something wrong just by reading it, so tightly were the feelings of guilt and unhappy duty woven into the story. It’s hard to read so many pages of someone struggling to be a better mother, wife, or person while being constantly ground into the dirt by a husband who needs her to be sick more than he needs their marriage to be happy.
However, the writing drew me in so thoroughly to Althea’s head that even her childish obsession with the housepainter didn’t get to me, which it normally would. Even though the prose is straightforward, it somehow came through even then that there was more going on than just sexual frustration, but that something was awakening within Althea that would set her free from this cycle of failure and disappointment.
What I most appreciated about this book, surprisingly, was ironically the thing that I think most people will not like about it–the ending. I for one LOVE when an author dares to create an ending that isn’t really an ending, where nothing wraps up too neatly and where there is no grand, hopeful resolution. It was surprising, because I half expected the story to end in some bizarre Cougartown happy-ending, but the reality was a much more potent way of pounding the plot home than I had expected.
Normally when authors send me their books I open them with a feeling of dread, because honestly they suck more than 80% of the time. This book was a pleasant surprise, and one I would definitely recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid to take a swim in the kind of marriage we all hope we never have to be a part of.
-Elise Hadden, Under the Heather Books ([...])