Where would you go to escape? Pittsburgh would not be my first choice if I were running away from my life – maybe a small village in Provence would draw me in. In Gayle Forman’s first novel for adults, Leave Me, her main character, Maribeth Klein, decamps to an empty apartment near Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania.
The premise is familiar – a harried supermom juggling career and children decides she needs space to find herself again. Forman adds a heart attack and preschool twins to the drama as well as the tangent of Maribeth’s search for her birth mother. While many of Maribeth’s solutions may seem convenient and unbelievable – a ready amount of cash withdrawn from the bank, a handsome doctor to help her recuperate, a landlord who rents month to month with no references or credit check – her angst and desire to leave it all ring true.
Although the plot seems formulaic, Forman manages to touch a nerve familiar to everyone who has just had enough, and offers some wisdom with her humor. Thankfully, all ends well and Maribeth finds her mojo again. A quick read and a nice distraction, Leave Me reminded me of Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years – not as good, but just as entertaining. Amazingly, Tyler’s book is on my shelf, so I may reread it and vicariously escape again.
His baby son’s mispronunciation of “bicycle” was the inspiration for the title of Dan Santat’s 2015 Caldecott winning picture book – The Adventures of Beekle. Beekle is an imaginary friend who has yet to be imagined by a real child.
Rather than wait on his island for his special someone to appear, Beekle sets off to find her. Santat floats him through a series of adventurous illustrations, with Beekle travelling through dark starry nights, reminiscent of Chris van Allsburg’s designs, to encounters with colorful dragons and double-page drawings of whales and harbors that mirror Maurice Sendak’s wild ones, until he finally reaches the real world. Searching for his friend takes him through busy streets and subways, to fantastic playgrounds, and finally to the top of an amazing tree.
When Beekle does find his friend, Alice, the relationship slowly blossoms from shyness to perfection, and the story ends with a frame of Alice and Beekle connecting with a real boy and his imaginary friend, happily proclaiming – “The world began to feel a little less strange.” Friends can give you the courage to face the world – both the real and the imagined.
A lovely book to share and read aloud, as the pictures evolve in color and excitement to the final happy ending.