Leaving Yesterday – A Review

Don’t read the back cover. I’m talking about Kathryn (Katie) Cushman’s soon-to-be-released novel Leaving Yesterday (Bethany House). Happily I dove into the book without any preamble, and I am so thankful. This one is too good to spoil with advanced warning. Which does make writing a review for it … challenging. But I’ll give it my best shot.

The Story. With the feel of autobiography, this first person account is a mother’s tale involving her love for and devotion to her children. But more than that, it is the story about her … over achievement. I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to give hints that will spoil the reading experience.

Strengths. The main character Alisa Steward is so well drawn—I’m certain I know her, though by a different name. But all the characters are just as realistic. Their actions are well motivated and believable. They are likable, and I found myself pulling for them to do the right thing.

There’s lots of action, though not the melodramatic kind of the TV thriller, and what is happening inside Alisa is really the most important part of the story.

The themes are strong, important, clear without being preachy. One central theme under girds the novel, but there are lots of other points a person can glean about drug abuse, not judging others, sacrifice, grief, redemption, anger, marital fidelity. All these and more in a fairly compact 300-page novel.

The ending was handled exceptionally well, I thought. The resolution is poignant and hopeful, but not “perfect,” which made it the perfect conclusion.

Rarely these days do I lose myself so completely in the story world of a novel. Call it the writer’s curse. Too often I find myself looking at the writing to see what went wrong or how the author pulled this or that off.

I’ll admit, I did look at the opening to see how Katie so completely hooked me into the story by the second paragraph, but from then on, I was lost in the life of Alisa Stewart.

I looked forward to reading the book, tried to stay awake late at night (rather than hoping the book would put me to sleep), and hated to put it down when I had to.

Recommendation. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you know I generally give the weaknesses of a book before the recommendation, and I think that’s important because it is then clear I’m not simply hyping the book. But honestly, I have nothing to say about weaknesses. I saw one typo.

Just so you know what I’m talking about, here’s the opening:

My son was dead. I knew it the minute I saw the black-and-white car pull to the curb in front of my house.

Clods of potting soil still clinging to my gloves—like the debris of the last few years clung to everything in my life—I turned back to my house, walked up the porch steps, opened the front door, then closed and locked it behind me. Perhaps a reasonable person would understand that the clink of the deadbolt sliding into place did nothing to stop the impending news. Well, show me the mother who thinks with reason when faced with the news that her only remaining son is dead.

Undoubtedly the book, marketed as contemporary fiction, will appeal most to women, but I think men can enjoy the story too. It’s a well-written, important story, and I suggest it’s a must read for Christian women. I highly recommend it to Christian guys as well.

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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