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Read advance reader review of Leaving by Roxana Robinson, page 3 of 4

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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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  • Jill S. (Durham, NC)
    What do love, marriage, and parenthood demand?
    "Being I a marriage is like walking a tightrope. You can't lose confidence. You have to keep going. You can't look down."

    But what happens when you lose your footing and do look down? Can you survive or must you surrender to the emptiness?

    Warren, who has been married to his wife Janet for 37 years, has lost his footing. The two of them share mutual respect, but they have markedly different views of the world. Then he unexpectedly runs into Sarah, his college sweetheart, at the opera. She is now divorced from the man she left Warren for so many years ago. They rekindle what they once had. But of course, life is now far more complicated. Both have adult children, and Warren is married.

    That is the set-up for Leaving, and it is the launching pad for many questions that center around love, marriage, and parenthood. Is love – much like in operatic tragedies – a constant struggle between passion and honor? Are there ever moral grounds for leaving a marriage? What do we owe our children and others who love us? Is personal joy more important than being present and nurturing for those who carry our genetic code and will carry it into the future? Should adult children ever have the right to "own" their parents' lives or to emotionally blackmail them?

    This is a nuanced book, and in reading it, my own questions arose. According to scientists, we are naturally programmed to enjoy about two years of constant sexual highs before settling down to a calmer, more mature love that can still be punctuated by passion. I wondered: what is it about Sarah that attracted him so deeply? She left him for the flimsiest of reasons. And his need to exit his marriage seems built on relatively flimsy reasons as well. What makes them think now they are natural soulmates? At 60 years old, are Warren and Sarah racing the clock to capture the kind of transcendental love that has been denied to them?

    I struggled with my rating because the answers are not clear. But I gradually decided that maybe that's the point: there are no easy answers or instant understandings. This is the kind of novel that captured my attention and left me wanting to talk about it with others. I give it a 4.5 star rating and thank BookBrowse and W.W. Norton for the opportunity to read it early in exchange for an honest review.
  • Juli B. (Prosper, TX)
    Wrong Book for the Holiday Season
    My apologizes to Bookbrowse for a delayed review while being so appreciative of receiving an advanced copy! With all the "feel-good" emotions surrounding my Thanksgiving and December holidays this reader found the storyline of trying to rekindle a "lost love" while shattering a marriage rather depressing. The author was at her best in the first and last third of the book weaving together characters whose lives were intertwined then pulled apart, only to find each other decades later in unexpected circumstances. Choices are made that create ripple effects for every character involved.

    Readers will be divided as to whether Sarah or Warren has the more mature perspective. Roxana Robinson cleverly weaves opera into the storyline; understanding this artistic genre leads readers to the shocking conclusion with a more refined acceptance of the turmoil emotions play while balancing moral responsibilities. The author has skillfully written dialogue filled with vitriol in multiple confrontations between parent and child creating a situation where readers are left wondering how any level of resolution will be achieved. "Leaving" presents many interesting points of discussion for book clubs, but the story overall made me sad, particularly the manipulation of parental obligation from the daughter's perspective.

    Connecting with the characters, whether it be a love or hate dynamic, earns my rating for this all too common theme of marital strife and consequences.
  • Lesa R. (Joliet, IL)
    Kept me engrossed for a while.....
    I really liked this book when I started it and was anxious to discover the fate of Sarah and Warren's future but as the story went on I started to really dislike the Warren character and his strange (at least to me) obsession with his adult daughter. I understand he wanted to keep the relationship he had with her which ultimately backfired on him which maybe he deserved. The Warren family situation seemed to take over the story, leaving poor Sarah in the background. It got to the point where I didn't care about what happened to these characters anymore. I was no longer rooting for their reunion. And the end made no sense to me. Very unsatisfying. But the writing was decent and I would read another book from this author.
  • Susan P.
    Family, Love?, Loyalty, Familial Responsibilities, Honor, Morals
    An exploration of two people's life and love(s). How much do we owe our family? What binds us to our marital oaths, our partners, our children? What do we owe ourselves? All of these difficult questions come into play in this masterfully written story. What exactly is honor and where is the boundary for morality?
  • Pamela K. (Churchville, NY)
    Opera is a metaphor for Leaving
    In the novel, Leaving, themes of love, loss, life, death, marriage and parenting weave together in the unfolding story of the main characters Warren and Sarah. There is ongoing tension for these star-crossed lovers as the juxtaposition of romantic love and parental love compete.
    At the beginning of the novel I found the characters uni-dimensional and felt emotionally detached from their lives, but as the novel evolved so did character development and plot complexity. Warren and Sarah meet again after two decades at the opera. This fact foreshadows their fate and the dramatic denouement of their love affair. Both Warren and Sarah seek meaningful relationships with their daughters, Kate and Meg respectively. Tragically both daughters seem detached and inaccessible though Meg seems closer to her mother after the birth of her third child.
    This novel tackles life's deepest experiences and uniquely focuses on the passion of love in later life. I appreciated Robinson's craft as it evolved and her attention to adult parental relationships. It is a novel I would recommend for friends and would lead to provocative book club discussions.
  • Beatrice M. (West Islip, NY)
    Leaving by Roxana Robinson
    Some may think that life is about the embodiment of love and the chances and decisions we make in that life, especially if that life and love has been threatened. As one discovers their own truths, it becomes evident what a person can live with or without, without compromising their dignity and moral values, as well as the value and dignity of others.
    This novel explores these concepts in great detail with an in depth explorations of each character as they go through changes within their own as well as their immediate family.
    As two of the characters meet again after several years of not seeing each other after their college break-up, they are faced with questions, emotions and decisions that, will change the course of their lives forever. We are drawn into the actual thought processes of each character and not just what the characters had to say aloud. I found this to be very insightful.
    This novel was paced well, although I thought there may have been less repetition of certain situations that were recalled by each character.
    This book would be a great choice for book clubs or buddy reads, because it lends itself toward many questions that evoke interesting discussions. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an in depth character drive story.
    Thank you to BookBrowse and W.W. Norton for this advanced reader copy.
  • Ellen G. (Montclair, NJ)
    Leaving
    I had a very difficult time reading this book. I didn't like the characters, they seemed very flat and self centered. I was not able to finish this book.

Beyond the Book:
  Puccini's Opera Tosca

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