Featured Review: What I Leave Behind (Alison McGhee)
About This Book:
After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.
Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.
When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.
*Review Contributed By Karen Klein Staff Reviewer*
Will’s dad commits suicide. His childhood friend, Playa, is raped at a party. His mom works long over-night shifts as a nurse. Will then decides to take the negatives in his life and turn them into something completely wonderful.
Will’s father’s death helps him realize that everyone needs positive acknowledgement. He also realizes that sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference. He gives small gifts and kind words to those around him ( his lonely boss, his friend Playa, a neglected little boy, an abused neighborhood dog).
OMG……This book is powerful, and wonderful, and heart wrenching ! ‘What I Leave Behind’, is a prime example of, “less is more.” There are so many books out there that are just way too long for what they are trying to say (read ‘The Goldfinch’). McGhee delivers a strong and pointed message with just one hundred chapters with one hundred words each. With this she demonstrates that you don’t need a mega size book to deliver a powerful punch.
I really loved that symbolism played such an important part in the novel. From the way that butterflies that ‘little dude’ watches everyday to Will’s quest to recreate his dad’s cornbread recipe. Small things give clues to the interworking of the character’s mindset.
Will’s compassion and kindness ripped my heart out. In ‘What I Leave Behind, ‘Will really is aware of the pain of those around him and attempts to right it anyway he can. In today’s world of cyber bullying and senseless violence, a kind word and a positive attitude can go along way. The title, ‘What I Leave Behind’, really summarizes that what you want to leave the world when you are gone should shape the way you lead your life today.
‘What I Leave Behind’, is a super quick read with just 1000 words (just about 3x the length of this review). Read it now. You won’t regret it.