When You Leave Me
Down & Out Books (2022)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/2022)
Jamie Michael lives with her beloved, older husband Larry on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Jamie has her hands full between her job and trying to take care of Larry, who has dementia. Shortly after a big earthquake rocks the island, Jamie reports that Larry has gone missing, making the discovery after she returned home from a local book club meeting. When a shoe, with the remains of a foot, washes up on the beach, Jamie is called to identify it.
This proves to be an extremely difficult time for Jamie, especially since the townspeople and the search and rescue party all suspect that she might be involved with Larry’s disappearance. One of the locals is particularly ardent in his pursuit of her. Another, who also happens to be the sheriff, also seems interested but a bit too intrusive. As the mystery heats up, Jamie is pulled in way over her head. Her best friend tries to help her through these trying times, but they too share some secrets. Answers are forthcoming, but at a tremendous expense.
Susan Wingate is a gifted writer. With her powerful prose and storytelling prowess, “When You Leave Me,” captured my attention as soon as I started reading. I instantly felt a connection to this place and the people. I really enjoyed getting caught up in both the vibrant descriptions of the island and the cast of quirky characters.
Having cared for a couple of relatives who had dementia, I also related to the protagonist’s pain in dealing with her husband. Despite the amount of personal care he needed, she still loved him, but he was becoming quicker to anger, and she was not feeling safe. As I read, I was reminded of what it was like to care for loved ones who had reached this stage. I mourned the loss of whom they used to be, but continued to care for them out of respect for their memory. I also held some hope for a glimpse of the essence of their spirit that used to shine brightly. Readers who are in similar situations will totally relate to this story as Wingate precisely captures the experience.
This is a unique mystery full of unexpected twists and turns. I enjoyed being surprised by the unpredictable turns of events. I found myself fascinated by this unique place, and I hope there will be more stories to follow from here. “When You Leave Me” by Susan Wingate is an excellent choice for a reader’s group. A highly recommended 5-star read!