Leaving The World by Douglas Kennedy

21 Jul

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

I heard about this author in People magazine with the caption “The Most Famous American Writer You’ve Never Heard Of”.  Douglas Kennedy is from England and is extremely popular there.  He is known to be the ‘British John Grisham’, although I didn’t really see any similarities at ALL in their genre or writing style.   Maybe it’s meant to mean only in popularity?  I actually sort of see that as an insult.

In any case, this headline intrigued me and while Kennedy has 6 novels, I chose Leaving the World because its plot seemed the most interesting.    Also, this novel is set in the U.S. and I was curious to understand how well he could write about the details of a culture in which he is not immersed (I read later that he did live in NYC until he was a teen, which I suppose contributed to his ability to do this). And, for the record, it did use some British phrases and lingo at times – I actually like that and am glad it wasn’t removed for the US publication.  I’m glad it was left as the author wrote it.

This book is about a woman who goes to Harvard as an English major, graduates, enters adulthood and deals with several very (and I mean VERY) emotional events which seem to come one right after the other.  I don’t always like when plots consist of seemingly unfathomable events that happen in succession like rapid fire, but Kennedy somehow made it realistic for me.  Additionally, the main character, Jane, is extremely well developed (some of the best I’ve ever read).  Her dimensions unfold slowly and naturally, much like it would be if you were actually able to hear someone’s thoughts.  It would take a while of listening to really understand all of the layers.  And just when you think you get them, they surprise you.

In addition to the character definition, I also see in this novel something I rarely see – character evolution.  Jane, actually evolves as she gets life’s lessons under her belt.  The reader can see evidence of her reacting differently than would be expected if the event had occurred earlier in her life.  She is barely recognizable at the end of this novel and you can see how the differences in her personality are a direct result of her journey.

I identified with Jane on several levels, and found her to be one of the most raw and realistic characters I’ve encountered.  Additionally, while this novel is just general fiction, I found it suspenseful in my own way, waiting to see how Jane dealt with what was thrown at her.  It also surprisingly tugged at my heartstrings as a woman, wife, and mother.

I recommend this book for focused, detailed reading.  It’s raw and serious and requires full attention.  And the payoff is well worth it!

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