For most of their marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states -- what she calls "the Tombs" and "the Visions" -- and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. Read more...
For most of their marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states -- what she calls "the Tombs" and "the Visions" -- and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their Easthampton home once school is out -- with no "summer girl" to care for her this time -- and become "normal."
But Oliver is distant and controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace-reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried.
Fearless, darkly funny, and compulsively readable, If You Left explores the complex dance that is the bipolar marriage, and the possibility that to move forward, we might have to destroy the very things we've worked hardest to build.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-25
- Reviewer: Staff
A woman suffering from bipolar disorder reaches a crossroads in her marriage and her life in this irresistible, tightly plotted novel. Althea Willow seems to have everything. Her husband, Oliver, owns a highly successful sunglasses company, and Althea is known for her controversial photography. If only she could relate more to their adopted 10-year-old daughter, Clem, she thinks she might just get this family thing right. Unfortunately, her affliction is in the driver’s seat, and she’s a slave to her symptoms, and a host of insecurities. Things come to a head when, after a decision to redecorate their East Hampton vacation home, Oliver brings in his beautiful French colleague, Claire Bissot to help. Althea is mortified, sensing they’re more than just coworkers, and Oliver’s past affairs only fuel the fire. Things really heat up when Althea hires Maze, a young painter who brings out a desire in her that she thought she’d lost. Norton (The Chocolate Money) writes Althea with a sure hand, unsentimental in her portrayal of a woman who is ruled by her illness and her codependent relationship with Oliver, yet desperately yearns for more. The lean narrative is unflinching, which only makes Althea’s story, and her eventual self-enlightenment, even more poignant. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (June)