“I thought about her characters and their plight often throughout the course of reading this book and knew that the book had affected me on so many levels. I'd highly recommend Leave of Absence.” J B Johnston reviews Leave of Absence by Tanya J Peterson
Oliver has nothing to live for. He just wants to die. It’s as simple as that. He has lost the two most precious people in his life and the world simply holds nothing for him anymore. He just wants to be with his wife and son who have been murdered. However, a failed suicide attempt sees him being admitted to Airhaven behavioural clinic suffering from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Barely able to function on even the most basic level, Oliver is soon helped and supported by the staff at the clinic. However, he no longer has any fight in him and the desire to give up his life is overwhelming. Then he meets Penelope at the clinic. She is a patient there too and is trying to come to terms with her schizophrenia. She longs to be the happy and carefree woman she was before her illness took a grip off her life and relationships. She has her wonderful fiance William to love and support her but Penelope struggles with whether she should stay with William and inflict her illness and its limitations on him. Together, Oliver and Penelope support each other and this very unlikely friendship is the one thing that helps either one make sense of the world.
This is a totally amazing book. It’s a courageous book that is not afraid to tackle what is essentially a taboo subject - mental illness. The story is one of pain, grief and heart breaking sadness. Yet amongst all those things there are two things that shine through - hope and love. The story follows two very confused and desperate people as they struggle not only with their mental illnesses but also with the stigma that is attached to them. The story not only looks at their struggle from their own perspectives but also from the perspectives of those who love them. William's character is amazing and his love for Penelope is beautiful and unconditional. For William, she will always be his Penelope and her schizophrenia is merely an extension of who she is.
Oliver's pain throughout this book is palpable and the reader becomes so invested in this character that his grief becomes our grief and our hearts break alongside his. This book had me reduced to tears on more than one occasion. However, do not mistake this book as a sad and negative book. It is anything but that. Its a book that highlights the strength of the human spirit and the beauty that can be found even in the most cruel situations life can throw at us. It is a book about friendships found in the most unlikely of places. Leave of Absence will leave you feeling more aware of the needs of people living with mental illness and hopefully more aware of the support they need - not judgement or fearful of conditions not easily understood. Leave of Absence will surely serve to educate and make us all a little more compassionate. Tanya J Peterson has written such an excellent book that was difficult to put down. I thought about her characters and their plight often throughout the course of reading this book and knew that the book had affected me on so many levels. I'd highly recommend Leave of Absence.
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