What I Leave Behind: Book summary and reviews of What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind

by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee X
What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
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Book Summary

After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this exquisitely crafted story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father's famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn't stopped. But there are some places Will can't walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa's house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party - a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn't left early - it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. McGhee skillfully evokes sense memory, as Will attempts to find solace in his nighttime wanderings. Ultimately, the piercing narrative offers an affirmation of remaining connected to others through loss as Will embraces his relationships and begins to heal." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Haunting, introspective, and traced with pain." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. McGhee's short, understated novel is an artful exercise in melancholy. Though it occasionally veers close to sentimentality, it always manages to skirt it, conveying emotions that are pure and sincere. Will is a classic wounded teenager who is nevertheless his own person. Grades 9-12." - Booklist

This information about What I Leave Behind was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Alison McGhee Author Biography

Alison McGhee writes for all ages in all forms, from novels to poems to books for children. Her bestselling novel Shadow Baby was a Today Show Book Club pick, and her picture book for adults, Someday, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and she has won many fellowships and awards, including four Minnesota Book Awards, the Geisel medal, a MacDowell residency, and several American Library Association awards.

Alison has three grown children and lives a semi-nomadic life in Minneapolis, Vermont and California.

Link to Alison McGhee's Website

Other books by Alison McGhee at BookBrowse
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