Michael Baron's When You Went Away is more than a novel about grief and fatherhood; it's a novel about being lost and the journey to find the right path.
Gerry Rubato has lost his whole world--first his daughter Tanya runs away with an older man at age 17 and then he loses his wife tragically. All he has left to center him is his infant son, Reese. The story is told from Gerry's point of view, and much of the beginning pages focuses on his grief and confusion about how to move on. Readers will be swept up in his grief, his struggle to find his way, and the dilemmas that face him when he begins to fall in love again. However, despite the focus on Gerry's grief, readers may not find When You Went Away to be a tearjerker.
"And just for a second -- that instant between dreaming and being awake when almost anything still seems possible -- I believed that everything else about my dream was true as well. My wife was next to me. My daughter, five or nine or seventeen, was two doors down the hall, about to protest that it was too early to go to school." (Page 3 of ARC)
Reese becomes Gerry's world for a long two months of seclusion before he heads back to work at a catalog firm. Codie, his wife's sister, becomes a sounding board for Gerry and he for her, allowing their relationship to go beyond sister-in-law and brother-in-law to confidants. The first few weeks back to work for Gerry are rough with sympathetic looks and a number of "How are you feeling?" questions from coworkers. Eventually, he finds a friend in Ally Rittan, a fellow creative mind.
"Ally slipped into the side door of my life and made herself at home without moving any of the furniture." (Page 213 of ARC)
Readers will embark upon a meditative journey with Gerry and Reese as Gerry works through the loss of his wife, the realization that love can find you at the most inopportune moments, and the harsh realities of repairing a relationship with his lost daughter. Some of the most insightful sections of the novel involve Gerry's journal conversations with his daughter Tanya; they are frank and raw.
When You Went Away is an apt title given that the narration focuses on what Gerry feels, does, and how he reacts to the absence of his daughter and his wife, but readers may also find that this novel examines what can happen to the self when tragedy strikes and the journey it takes to locate or transform that lost self.
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Thanks to Michael Baron, The Story Plant, and Joy Strazza at Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting for sending me a free copy of this book for review.
Michael Baron agreed to share with my readers his writing space in a guest post. Check back tomorrow.