What I Leave Behind
"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.
- Hardback | 208 pages
- 137 x 206 x 25mm | 272g
- 15 May 2018
- ATHENEUM BOOKS
Three years have passed since Will's father took his life. Every Tuesday night as his mother works the overnight shift, Will tries and fails to re-create his father's cornbread recipe. He has a job at a dollar store, where he gives his socially awkward boss the nickname Major Tom, after the David Bowie song. He feels driven to wander the streets of Los Angeles, connecting with a precocious brown-skinned, black-haired child he calls "little butterfly dude" and offering his failed batches of cornbread to Superman, a homeless person. He recalls memories of his father, attempting to make sense of his suicide, and agonizes over his old friend Playa (named by beach-loving parents) and his guilt over leaving the party early. He drops in on Mrs. Lin, who runs a Chinese store he used to visit with his father, fascinated by the 100 blessings she sold. Told from Will's fragmented, raw perspective, this slim novella packs a profound punch. Numbers from one to 100 written in Chinese (verso) accompany each snapshot from Will's life, relayed in sparse, taut language (recto). Most characters are assumed white.
Haunting, introspective, and traced with pain. (Fiction. 14-18)--Kirkus STARRED REVIEW "3/1/18"
About Alison McGhee