All marriages have difficulties, but the relationship depicted in If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton is a raw and revealing look into a union between an extremely depressive woman named Althea, and her husband, Oliver, who struggles to keep them together. Althea has been in and out of the hospital, and Oliver (Ollie) has more or less stood faithfully at her side. But as the narrative progresses, it’s revealed that Oliver has little flings and openly flaunts them in front of Althea, which made my heart break.
I wanted to admire Oliver for loving Althea through the most difficult times in their marriage, but instead I despised him. My heart went out to Althea, because I wanted more for her, and I wanted her to want more for herself. Eventually, Althea has a sort of awakening when she comes into contact with Maze, a man seventeen years her junior. He makes her want to feel sexy again, encourages her to explore sides of her sexuality that have been barren for years.
If You Left was such a frustrating read for me. Why would anyone think adopting a child or staying in a marriage that isn’t working for either party is a good idea? What purpose did it serve in Oliver’s mind to repeatedly let his wife know through very visible affairs—including the current one with his interior designer—that he didn’t desire or love her? I felt the most for Clem, who wanted a mother who couldn’t be there for her. At the very least, Oliver seemed to be a doting and loving father—the only redeeming quality this character had.
I think in Althea’s position, I probably would have done the same thing in regards to Maze, even though I knew it wouldn’t be a lasting arrangement. Maze served as a way for Althea to become alive again and realize that she didn’t need Oliver to survive. Overall, though, this was such an emotionally draining book, even if it does end on a positive note. I’m still soaking in everything I just read from this book, and remain undecided on my lasting impression of it.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Mariner Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.