What I Leave Behind

What I Leave Behind

3.82 (1,285 ratings by Goodreads)
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"An artful exercise in melancholy...Every reader will love openhearted Will." --Booklist (starred review)
"Haunting, introspective." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Emotionally raw...[A] piercing narrative." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"McGhee artfully illustrates the tangled web wherein grief intertwines with the mundane." --BCCB After his dad dies of suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this exquisitely crafted story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each, by award-winning and bestselling author Alison McGhee. 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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 208 pages
  • 137 x 206 x 25mm | 272g
  • English
  • 1481476564
  • 9781481476560
  • 1,646,924

Review quote

Sixteen-year-old Will is a walker. Things have to be walked out through the soles of your feet, he believes. And Will has things that need to be walked out: his best friend since grade school, Playa, has been raped at a party that he had left too early to save her. His father is dead--a suicide. Will was 13 when that happened, and that's when he began to walk. His father made the best cornbread; the morning he died, he offered Will some, but Will, headed for school, said "nah." Now he wonders if he had said "yes," would his father still be alive? In memory of his father, Will tries making cornbread, too, but it's never as good as his father's. He gives it to Superman, the homeless guy he passes on his walks. He secretly leaves presents for the little boy he passes, too, who is always waiting for butterflies to land. Most important, he starts leaving little gifts at Playa's doorstep with an unsigned note with something his father used to say: "Don't let the bastards get you down." McGhee's short, understated novel is an artful exercise in melancholy. Though it occasionally veers close to sentimentality, it always manages to skirt it, conveying emotions that are pure and sincere. Will is a classic wounded teenager who is nevertheless his own person. Everybody loved his father--and every reader will love openhearted Will. -- Michael Cart--Booklist *STARRED REVIEW* "March 1, 2018 "
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Rating details

1,285 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 25% (316)
4 41% (529)
3 28% (357)
2 5% (70)
1 1% (13)
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