Leave of Absence has been out for one year (since April, 2013). In that time, I have had the privilege of meeting people in person and online. Many readers have gone through the trouble of contacting me through my website or through social media in order to share their thoughts about the novel. I cherish all of these contacts, and I’ve attempted to show this in this letter.
To the dear readers of Leave of Absence:
Many of you have thanked me for writing this novel. This touches me more deeply than I can possibly express. It is actually I who would like to thank you.
When you told me you experienced a deep emotional connection to Oliver and Penelope, my heart swelled. I love that you laughed at the sock puppet incident and at Penelope’s explanation of the Kerffies. I’m touched by your stories of the tears you shed out of empathy with Oliver’s and Penelope’s pain. Many of you, men and women alike, have gone out of your way to tell me how you personally identified with Oliver or Penelope and have shared some of your experiences with me. Although I don’t know you, I will never forget you; you will be forever a part of my heart. Thank you.
When you told me that Leave of Absence helped increase your understanding for schizophrenia or for depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, my heart soared. You come from different backgrounds and are different ages and genders, yet together you’ve let me know that you understand these illnesses better than you ever have before. Many of you emphasized that, further, you understand the human side of these illnesses more deeply after reading this novel. I’ll always cherish this feeling that you gave me, the feeling like maybe Leave of Absence is a helpful novel. Thank you.
When you told me that this book grabbed you and you were compelled to keep reading and reading, my heart leapt for joy. I’m so happy that you kept wondering “what if…” as you read. Imagine how wonderful I felt when you told me that during a long power outage, you grabbed a flashlight and kept reading about Oliver and Penelope. To those of you who told me you read straight through and skipped chores or went to bed later than usual, I do apologize. However, I’m glad that you enjoyed Leave of Absence enough to do that. Some of you told me that you don’t usually read novels, because you don’t have the time or the patience or the connection to things you’ve tried to read, but you gave my novel a try and you loved it and couldn’t put it down. For being so engaged with my characters and their story, thank you.
When you told me that you are still carrying Oliver and Penelope and others with you months after having finished it, my heart somersaulted. How thrilled it makes me to know that you remember scenes from the book and feel the emotion or that you encounter something that reminds you of something in the story. For keeping Oliver and Penelope alive with you, thank you.
I write for empathy and understanding and connection. I always hoped that my characters and real people would connect with each other. I of course connected with my characters, but then I forgot about myself. In reaching out to share with me your feelings and experiences with Leave of Absence I realized that I get to be a part of this connection, too. For reading my work, for connecting with it, and for connecting with me, I cannot thank you enough.