A seductive novel about a privileged but damaged Manhattan wife whose main source of stability — her marriage — comes under threat, from forces both without and within.
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.
This was such an intriguing look into the mind of a lady with bipolar disorder, and I found it hard to put down.I really loved how the speech in this book was written with a lot of double meanings and a lot of room for interpretation, some of which was very clever and had me rereading sections. Though it was in places a tad confusing, it was a trope that worked really well and had a good payoff.
Ollie and Althea's relationship was heartbreaking. They'd had what started off as the picture perfect true love that might have lasted had Althea's love not disintegrated. The devolution of their marriage into a caregiver/patient role made me cringe, and made me root for Althea so much more.
There were scenes that felt like borderline erotica at time, which I don't normally appreciate very much, but these had a relationship with art. Althea's photography concepts had interesting ideas behind them that added to this dynamic.
The way the "Tombs" and the "Visions" were portrayed was fascinating to read. The way Althea mentally interacted with the things around her was absolutely unique and shaped by her states of mind. Had she not had a seemingly bottomless bank account, I shudder to think of what her life may have been like.
For anyone intrigued by mental disorders, this is a strong and addictive read.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.