Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy

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Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: From the author of The Pursuit of Happiness comes this beautiful, transporting tale about the arbitrary nature of destiny and how one woman navigates her way through all that fate throws in her path.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Hutchinson
ISBN: 978-0091795788

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Jane Howard has decided that she will never marry nor will she have children. Today is her thirteenth birthday and into the faces of her constantly sparring parents Jane hurls a gauntlet of a prediction as to her own future, loudly averring that if their example of happily ever after is anything to go by, she is having none of it.

We travel forward some years and Jane is now a Harvard graduate Professor at a 'sub-prime' university in Boston, traversing a road that could not be further away from the uncomplicated life that she longed for. When you are thirteen, anything is possible; including plotting for your future to unravel neatly, simply and unambiguously. It takes many years of experience to learn that life tends to wend its own way.

You see Jane has, in spite of her tender years, already loved and lost. Hollowed slightly by this and wary of further heartbreak she embarks upon a relationship with the witty, effulgent if slightly capricious Theo and ensconces herself in his love and needfulness of her. When Jane finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she surprises herself and everyone else - in particular her ailing mother, a bitter, broken woman ceaselessly in denial about her own failings regarding the demise of her marriage - by responding to motherhood embracively. Theo, on the other hand, a man who has spent the nine months of Jane's pregnancy proclaiming that his dearest wish is this impending fatherhood, finds his attentions to his new family beginning to wander. It is a short walk from this point to the very edge of the abyss and their relationship gradually and insidiously establishes itself, teetering, there.

As if things cannot get any worse, Theo sets his sights, stubbornly and immovably on a new and, to Jane's mind, slightly dubious business venture, securing a large investment from her. Jane begins to get more and more anxious and frazzled until her attention is so abstracted, the 'truly awful' happens and their lives are changed forever.

Jane retreats - physically and mentally - and has to teach herself how to exist again. It is this journey that provides the meat of the tale and therefore the complete encapsulating fascination and because of that, I can tell you no more.

Around ten years ago, I had my first taste of Douglas Kennedy, in a 'duo book' of his novels The Dead Heart and The Job. I was totally absorbed by both stories, vastly differing in their plots but written with the same adroit, capable hand and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Kennedy's writing until I read Leaving The World.

What captured my imagination so completely is that he writes from Jane's perspective, in the first person. Had I not known Leaving The World was written by a man, I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that the author simply must be female. One reviewer says Kennedy is a complete genius when it comes to understanding the minds of stylish but troubled women... and truly, he is. The character of Jane is flawed in ways that most women will understand. She has 'issues', as we all do, though she is bright, articulate and sharp; yet she demonstrates a gentleness and fragility that is beautiful and moving and makes you want to hug her. It is this likeability that makes her the key to the unputdownable nature of this book. Now, I am not one to crow about not being able to put a book down, but I honestly had to limit myself, like a greedy relative at a wedding buffet, from wolfing down the entire thing in one sitting. That said, I still sneaked several chapters outside of my allotted reading time and my husband even had to prise it out of my hands late one night.

Douglas Kennedy is as gifted a writer as they come. Not only does he comprehend the rawness of human nature, but he can translate it into the pages of a book and fabricate a tale of titanic emotion. I must recommend Leaving The World to you with all my heart. I adored it; it is one of the best books I have ever read and will sit, forever etched on my mental bookshelf.

The subject matter of this book will cleave your heart and in the same mood, I must recommend Debra Adelaide's The Household Guide to Dying, a beautiful, moving and highly emotive story about the untimeliness of death. You might also like to read The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a complex tale of the kind of terrible decisions that should never have to be made. Lastly, perhaps you should take a peek at The Life You Longed For by Maribeth Fischer though you should be warned that all three ought to carry a 'Kleenex' warning. You might also appreciate Penelope by Rebecca Harrington.

Lastly, our thanks go to the ladies and gentlemen at Hutchinson for sending this copy to Bookbag for review. We also have a review of Kennedy's The Great Wide Open.

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Buy Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy at Amazon.com.


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