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Read advance reader review of Leaving by Roxana Robinson

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Leaving

A Novel

by Roxana Robinson

Leaving by Roxana Robinson X
Leaving by Roxana Robinson
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  • Published:
    Feb 2024, 344 pages

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  • Kathleen Q. (Quincy, MA)
    The Price of Following your Head or Your Heart
    LEAVING is an example of dichotomy of following your heart or your head when it comes to a complex relationship that started in the past and was forgotten until a chance interaction later in life. Also entwined is extreme loyalty and honor, but only on one side. Robinson also eloquently shows at what lengths a parent will go to, to ensure their child's happiness. Often a parent will sacrifice their own happiness for their child's, regardless of the cost. LEAVING will spur you to wonder what you would do if you had a chance encounter with an old love and unresolved feelings bubble to the surface. Robinson does justice to the age old question: Do I follow my heart or my head?
  • Betsy R. (Gig Harbor, WA)
    Leaving is Amazing
    This book! I loved it. It has it all-affairs, marriage drama, adult children difficulties-many issues some of us have faced later on in life. Warren and Sarah meet by chance twenty-plus years after their college break-up and find that their attraction is still there..and events unfold. It will stay with you for a long time-at least, it has for me. Highly rated.
  • Dorothy L. (Manalapan, NJ)
    Leaving and Loss
    I liked this book and thought it was well constructed. The characters were multidimensional and the two protagonists were transformed as the plot evolved in different stages: reunion, reconnection, and ultimately loss. Love is different when you are sixty not twenty. Family is involved. Warren and Sara discover love is not enough. In their youth, Sarah ended the relationship because of miscommunication. As seniors, Warren ends things because of the rigidity of his daughter Kat but it is ironic because she can never forgive him even though he has made the ultimate sacrifice. I think this novel is about leaving from the beginning of Warren and Sarah's relationship to the end as well as loss for many of the characters. Sarah loses Warren and he loses her. But Warren's wife only has a shell of a husband left and Kat has lost a father. The opera theme throughout is well done. I was initially unsure that this was the best ending but after reflection decided it was. I would recommend Leaving to other readers.
  • Cindy J. (Hastings, NY)
    Leaving
    I loved this book. It was an intense and emotional look at family relationships and our responsibility to ourselves and others. It was thought provoking and I continue to think about this book weeks after I finished it. I think this book would promote good book club discussions about the characters and premise.
  • Betsey V. (Austin, TX)
    Love above it all
    Just the word “leaving” triggers my thoughts of anxiety and isolation. Roxana Robinson delivers a captivating story of a “second-time around” couple at age sixty. It doesn’t matter that the description of their first romance (in college) was not too sexy. It’s sexier this time. It’s distinguished by the propulsion and voice, prose and velocity. I didn’t even notice several text problems that still need fixing until it was pointed out by another friend, such as the credibility of Warren and Sarah as young lovers. But we came away knowing that trust is a big issue for Sarah, and she couldn’t ultimately trust Warren to keep her safe back then.

    Warren takes his romantic cues from opera, he’s a mad devotee of the art, and so it is no surprise that he ran into Sarah forty years later at the opera house. Both fall madly in passion. And that is what drives this story---the pitfalls of their romance, the reactions of family that must be considered after such a radical change in your life.

    Problem: Warren is still married. Another problem: a grown adult daughter who disapproves. For me, LEAVING was a page-turning and heart-piercing family drama that unfolded in a tug of war with everyone's emotions. Roxana Robinson is such a hefty writer that I managed to step over the plot holes and some awkwardly pieced parts because she effectively lured me along. Despite missteps, this is one of those times that I can ignore them and go with my gut. Robinson gave the story a sensuous finesse despite the obvious blemishes, and I was all in with Warren and Sarah’s story. The author conveyed the notorious baggage that comes with your heart’s desires, and did it without dropping into cliches.

    The difference between a young adult that doesn’t yet have children, then being supplanted by your children as the center of your life, was spot-on. You are never just yourself anymore after having kids. “And they take over your life eventually, their lives supersede yours. Because for a long time you think they’re yours…when they’re small you think you own them. …You think they partly are you.” But in the next paragraph both Sarah and Warren both observe that “they never thought that they were owned by their parents. They had always known that they had owned themselves.” At a young age I understood that concept, I could feel my ownership of self as a toddler. It becomes a significant feature of the story. It made me think of my daughter in a new way, also.

    Dark at moments, LEAVING is a suspenseful domestic drama that deals with relationships, boundaries, betrayal, morality, and what we owe to others in our quest to fulfill our own desires. Sarah and Warren didn’t necessarily reach full relationship maturity as they grew older; if anything, it got more complicated. You’re still a fool for love, just—an older fool!

    There were times that I felt Warren was nothing more than a spoiled adolescent. On the other hand, he was trying to follow an honor code, but that is one of his blind spots: he thought he was being principled, despite the obvious---he was never all that virtuous. And he was frightened of losing the love of his daughter. Or was Robinson demonstrating the selfishness of a man who wanted his cake and to eat it, too? You as reader can decide.

    Was Sarah at fault, or to blame for any of this? It would make good discussion for readers to peel away the layers of psychological complexity to determine culpability. And is that the point? In the end, after Sarah has gone through some very traumatic family events and Warren struggles to get past himself, I think the story lands just where it should, with some answers and always more questions about the future. I love a good read that forces me to contemplate and examine elements of person and plot to understand how the narrative got where it did. This is a largely internal, nuanced text that allowed me to experience the tumult that made this second hookup messy and intense.

    I tore through the pages, especially the last quarter of the story. Dangling on the edge of catastrophe, the characters’ humanity held me with searing intensity. I closed the book feeling both satisfied and hungry, falling in step with Sarah above the others, (I wanted to stay with her for a longer time). The cast lingered in my thoughts longer than the close of the book. Even now, I want to peek into their lives and see how everyone is adjusting.

    In lesser hands, this story would have been torrid and melodramatic, but Robinson mined the characters with emotional acuity. By the end of the book, I felt I knew them, even the secondary ones. She also put a spell on me with the way she captured Bella, Sarah’s feisty and yet self-contained, elegant dog.

    A deserving and tempestuous novel—4.5 rounded up. Thank you to Book Browse and Norton for sending me a copy for review.
  • Janice P. (South Woodstock, VT)
    Deep and Real
    I could not put this book down once I started, so swiftly does Roxana Robinson draw us into the lives of her two protagonists, long-ago lovers in their youth who meet by chance in their "golden years." Sarah is divorced, Warren is unhappily married, both have adult children they struggle to be closer to, and work they enjoy… and both are in some way unfulfilled. A new love kindles, and threatens to challenge assumptions each of them has cherished about themselves and about the imagined future.

    Robinson weaves a rich fabric of their separate daily routines and inner lives as they struggle long-distance —Sarah in Westchester, Warren in Boston—to decide whether there is a way and a place to build a future together, and whether they can afford the emotional cost, either way… And meanwhile, there are other challenges each must face alone. As we move swiftly through years to reach a stunning conclusion, we are challenged, like Sarah and Warren, to consider what we most value in ourselves and in our lives.

    I can't praise this novel enough! I have enjoyed her earlier novels, and this one is the best yet.
  • Molly O. (Aurora, CO)
    Why They Leave
    This beautifully written novel explores the power of intimacy: what every human needs and what happens when it escapes them. When Sarah and Warren renew their relationship after decades apart, they find the intimacy they lacked in their youth that was the cause of their split. Both have spent years raising children who are now grown, so it seems it is their turn to find happiness together. Robinson's ability to draw the reader into the lives of her main characters is achieved through pitch-perfect dialogue and exquisite description. After finishing the book, I thought about it for days, wondering why Warren's daughter was so despicably characterized. I didn't see the motivation for her feelings about her dad. I finally realized that his betrayal of their intimate father/daughter relationship was an unforgivable act in her eyes. Ultimately this is a story of love –and how communion of two souls is the necessary core of it. Without it, there is no real love.

Beyond the Book:
  Puccini's Opera Tosca

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