Cover Image: The Leftovers

The Leftovers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

4.5 stars. Wow this was such a dark and twisted book the whole way through. It was wonderfully written but hard to read at some parts. Such an unexpected ending. I’ve never read anything by this author before but will definitely look out for more in the future.
Was this review helpful?
This is the fourth novel I've read by this author. I loved them all. This time around the author explores care-giving, and how those in need of care were affected by the pandemic. Also, she explores a dysfunctional family, and how the withholding of maternal love for one child impacted the entire family. How having a 'favorite' child, affects the family dynamic.

The story is told by Callie who says: "I have to be careful how I tell you this story. This is a story with a monster in it, but it's possible that monster isn't always my mother."

The author displays an acute understanding of those who are outcasts in society. She also has a keen knowledge of the sacrifice and patience it takes to be a full-time carer. In addition to family secrets, this book contains myriad very serious and sensitive themes. The novel is both compelling and dark. I was fully immersed in Callie's story, then at about the 80% mark, the narrative turned very sad and unsettling. I found I was quite uncomfortable reading towards the end. It speaks to the skillful and poetic writing that I felt this way.

The plot is 'open-ended' with the reader having to decide what Callie might have done next. This type of ending is not to everyone's taste, though it seemed perfect here.

The title was spot-on. Not only were Callie and her mother the 'leftovers' of her family, but it also spoke to how those with mental disabilities are the 'leftovers' of society.

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy realistic and brilliantly written literary fiction.
Was this review helpful?
The Leftovers is a story about sexual power and consent, the myth of the perfect victim, and a dark exploration of the things we do for – and to – the ones we love. Fascinating read ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Was this review helpful?
I finished the book but at times I found it deeply uncomfortable. By the end, I had experienced a range of emotions from sadness, anger, to disgust. There is a degree to which I feel there are unanswered questions but I did consider the writing to be clever, even though the storyline was at times difficult, hence persevering to the end. I would say as others have done that there this should have some trigger warnings attached as you wouldn't necessarily guess the content from the blurb.
Was this review helpful?
This was a dark read and I was not expecting that ending! The writing was beautiful and poetic. I would definitely recommend this book to those who like dark and upsetting stories.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley and Author Cassandra Parkin for this ARC.

I finished the Leftovers in one sitting and still unsure how I found the overall story which I guess speaks of its powerfull messages. You're introduced and lead by Callie who is at first seen as a very reliable narrator but the more you find out, the more you start feeling like her which is questionning the truth. 

The story is a slow burner and you don't even pick up fully when the story changed and then it hits you with a dark twist.
Was this review helpful?
The Leftovers by Cassandra Parkin

Callie is a carer, professionally as a residential carer for Frey, and for her brother Noah.   Whilst caring for Frey she gets a call that Noah and her father have died in a traffic accident.  It is just Callie and her mother left and they hate each other.  The primary narrator is Callie and through the midst of grief we meander through Callie’s memories of her difficult relationship with her mother but Callie is an unreliable narrator and is burying deep family secrets.

The book is set in the present with covid and lockdowns.  For Frey the pandemic left him in an unfamiliar care home with visits from his family prohibited and it is an especially poignant part of the book when this is told from his perspective.  For Noah he sees his mental health condition worsening as mental health services are heavily curtailed and of course because of the psychological effect of lockdown itself.   Again through Callie's memories we learn more about Noah and Frey and her relationship with each.

I felt that Frey and Noah were well fleshed out characters and not just symbolic of their neuro diversity and mental ill health respectively (their conditions are never named). Some chapters are told from Frey’s perspective and it is heartbreaking how hard it is for his voice to be heard.  The book portrays his internal struggle between who he is and what those around Frey need from him including Callie.  I am not nor am I close to a neuro diverse person but with that caveat in mind I did find Frey was a fully rounded, intelligent and thoughtful main character.  In fact I loved Frey for his kindness and it is this trait as well as his neuro diversity that leaves him vulnerable.

The writing evokes the people and places so vividly in this book.  It makes the plotline even more disturbing and uncomfortable.  This book features sexual abuse and assault and examines consent and how we can become victims and perpertrators.  It gets dark very early on when the reader can sense the abuse before Callie can understand it.  The writing in this respect was very clever at giving the reader this background whilst making it believable that Callie wouldn’t yet be able to process or understand what had happened.  

The book then takes an even darker turn as another abusive relationship begins to develop.  I have to say I found this very uncomfortable and upsetting and I did wonder if it was really necessary.  I do understand why the author did it, rather than a straight forward bad perpetrator/poor victim storyline it went further in examining how a person can be both.  Although the pandemic isn’t at the centre of this novel I thought Parkin did a fantastic job of making it a part of the plot and illustrating the additional difficulties that those with care needs faced. The writing is clever and the characters felt so real it kept me turning the pages to find out how the story would develop.
Was this review helpful?
Nurse Callie is giving up her job to be better able to care for her brother. For years now, Noah has been suffering from mental illness and apart from their father, Callie is the only one he trusts and who is able to calm him when he gets in a state of emergency. To have more time, she leaves the hospital and becomes a carer for Frey, a young man who does not talk and needs strict daily routines to cope with life. Thus, Callie spends two weeks with her father and brother and the other two together with a colleague with Frey. When she returns one night from work, she receives an awful message: both her beloved ones have died in an accident and now she has to face her mother again. The woman who left them, who always hated Callie and the single person she does not want to see. It is a confrontation which is not only hurtful but which also lets lose monsters which have been kept locked up for many years.

Cassandra Parkin’s novel is a dark tale which play with the big question if the narrator is reliable or not and if what we remember is actually how things really happened or if our brain might play tricks on us. “The Leftovers” is great in making you high alert for the half-sentences, the things implied, all that is not said and questions all characters. Whom can you trust? Who is willingly misleading? Who is misled by their brains? From a point where all is clear, you enter an abyss where everything is possible.

Callie appears to be a selfless young woman who has destined her life to care for others. She is great with Frey as she has a long history of living with her brother and noticing nuances, slight changes which might be signs for dramatic events. She can well adapt to Frey’s needs and sync herself with his life which makes her perfect for the job. Yet, after some time, things slightly change and it takes some time for the reader to figure out why that is.

In the confrontation with her cool and repellent mother, childhood memories come up. Not only did her mother not show any affection towards her and clearly preferred her brother, she definitely neglected the girl. In Callie’s recollections, it all makes sense and fits together perfectly, yet, the more you get to know, the more you start to wonder if she, too, might see things that are not there just like her brother. Even though from what she tells, it all seems right and yet, doesn’t the understanding from the world of somebody suffering from paranoia normally form a consistent picture? 

A great read I can only recommend but you should be aware that some contents might feel like triggers for a highly sensitive reader.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Netgalley, Legend Press and Cassandra Parkin for this e-copy in return for my honest review. A dark read. I was genuinely holding my breathe with unease throughout. I love how the story slowly unfolded. It deserves to be a huge hit. For fans of Abigail Dean's Girl A.
Was this review helpful?
Whilst well written, easy to follow and leaving you wondering where it was going and the backstory to the dynamics of the relationships, and had an interesting take on the reliable narrator theme and if we can trust our own memories, this book left me feeling so uncomfortable.

I blame the synopsis which I don’t think does a good enough job of out laying what this book is actually about or what it will cover. Had I gone in to it knowing the many trigger and content  warnings that it should come with then I would have been prepared but it didn’t and instead I went in and was confronted with; suicide, sexual abuse, rape, consent, mental illness, the COVID-19 pandemic, child neglect, drugging of others and molestation. I may have forgotten some others. 

I think it’s only fair to give a more complete picture of what to expect in a novel, without giving the whole plot away, to allow readers to make an informed decision on whether or not a book is for them. Had I had all the information I’d have gone in to it prepared for those topics but I hate to think of what someone who may have first hand experience of any of those I’ve mentioned above would feel having come across these unprepared.
Was this review helpful?
Review - The Leftovers by Cassandra Parkin
Title: The Leftovers 


Author: Cassandra Parkin 


Rating: 3 3/4 stars 


Favorite Quote: “My heart is tender and heavy with grief and loss, and hating her is a welcome distraction. Without her, I’d never make it out of the shower, I would simply sit on the floor of the cubicle and weep and weep until my body turned to water and I could escape down the drain in a single continuous pouring away. But righteous anger strengthens my bones.” Cassandra Parkin. The Leftovers. E-book, ed., Legend Press, 2021. 


Review: Thank you to Legend Press and the NetGalley platform for the free e-ARC that I received in exchange for an honest review.


The Leftovers begins with the death of the protagonist’s, Callie’s, brother and father in a car accident that is later determined not to be an accident at all. Callie leaves her post as the caregiver for a man named Frey who doesn’t talk and seems to have an unnamed mental health issue, to be with her mother, whom Callie has long thought doesn’t love her, the the wake of these deaths.


As the novel progresses, what happened, both to Noah, Callie’s brother, and their father starts to come to light, as do a number of secrets that Callie and her family have kept buried for quite some time - including why Callie’s mom left, what Callie’s father did to her mom and possibly to Callie, and Callie’s own leanings towards sexual exploitation of someone who can’t consent.


Okay, so, this book got dark. See the end of the review for a (probably not exhaustive) list of potential triggers. I really struggled with how to rate this book, because I definitely was compelled to keep reading, but often out of a sense of dread and disgust (almost, perhaps ironically, like what happens when you drive by a car accident), than out of any sense of enjoyment of the book.


Part of my rating, then, comes from Parkin’s ability to create that sense of darkness, that sense of not right well before the novel’s secrets are revealed. I’d say about halfway through this novel, I started getting this uneasy feeling as I was reading - this sense of anticipation mixed with dread. The novel opens with a death, so it’s not fear of death or dying that leeches from the pages of this book - it’s something much more sinister. 


There is also something incredibly compelling about the way that Parkin creates a narrator that seems reliable at first but then becomes decidedly unreliable as the novel goes on. At one point, after a long analysis of Callie’s mother’s feelings, from Callie’s perspective, I actually made a note to myself asking if we would ever get the mom’s point of view, since that may have added some context to the narrative (although much of that context is still revealed at the end). 


I do have a few criticisms of this book, though most of those criticisms arise from my honesty not being sure of what’s appropriate or true, and what’s not. 


The first, and perhaps the biggest in terms of plot points, is that it didn’t seem particularly realistic to me that both Callie and her mom would have so little idea of what had occurred, based solely off of medication. I don’t know enough about pharmacology or the psychology of trauma to know whether this is actually unrealistic or not, but it was hard to suspend my disbelief at that part.


The other is that I’m not well-versed enough in the myriad of mental health concerns that arise in this book to know whether these issues are addressed respectfully and realistically or not. Nothing I read stood out as being particularly insensitive (when discussing Frey’s and Noah’s behaviors), but because this is a topic I don’t know much about, I wanted to include in my review a caveat that I am open to learning more and if it turns out these depictions were insensitive or disrespectful, I would certainly be opening to adjusting my review and rating as a result. 


About that Quote: So, this quote jumped out at me for a number of reasons. The first should be obvious - Parkin’s grasp on the English language is wow. The imagery of this quote, and the imagery creates throughout the novel, is absolutely incredible, and this quote clearly shows off those skills. 


The quote too, though, also shows how Parkin is able to develop the narrative as stealthily as she does. That sense of anticipation and dread that I mentioned earlier is present throughout the novel, if you look back after finishing it. But on first read, before the dread really sinks its claws in, what the novel is building towards is hidden by layers of what seems like grief and only grief. Here is someone so captured by grief, that those other red flags that pop up are little more than symptoms of that devastation. It isn’t until later, when those red flags really start to pile up, that the story’s underpinnings truly begin to make an appearance. 



TRIGGERS: SA (including r*pe), child neglect, s*icide


The Leftovers is out now! Have you read it? Share your thoughts below!

(This review is copy and pasted from my blog. Link is shared below)
Was this review helpful?
I’m a huge fan of the author and absolutely had to read this. I thought it was terrific. I like the way the chapters bounced between other characters, even Noah who is dead when the book starts so not everything is focused through Callie and her mother. Callie is a fantastic character, full of love despite the stress of caring for her brother and her job as a carer looking after someone who is unsettlingly like Noah. I loved the way the author explored the fragmented relationship between Callie and her mother, especially the dark revelations at the end which shatter everything Callie thought she knew about her life and family.
Was this review helpful?
Despite the teasing chick lit mystery feel of the cover, this is a dark and deeply affecting novel about trauma, childhood abuse, and the burdens of family told through the unravelling of an unreliable narrator. ⁣⁣
⁣
The narrator Callie is a residential carer who splits her time between caring for her client Frey and her brother Noah. The book does not name conditions explicitly, but Noah exhibits schizophrenic characteristics whilst Frey seems to be autistic. In the opening scene, she is enjoying a blissfully non-eventful Chinese takeaway with Frey and her fellow carer Josh, when she finds out that her beloved father and brother have died in a car crash. ⁣
⁣
The story flicks between the idyllic time she spends in a gorgeous English cottage caring for Frey, her childhood - her mother’s negligence and obvious preference for her brother, her parents’ ugly divorce, and her brother’s illness rearing its head -, and her navigating grief with her distant mother. These are vividly written scenes and Callie’s rejection and desire to be loved are almost painful to witness, as are the brightness of her memories which she clings to amidst all this pain. In one flashback she describes it as ‘a moment of unguarded happiness. A treasure I can revisit, like going to a museum to marvel at a way of life once lived.’⁣⁣
⁣
The book excels at unravelling Callie as a reliable narrator, and revealing the truths she keeps hidden from herself to survive, though there were elements of the writing that occasionally tipped over into over the top. 
⁣⁣
#TheLeftovers #CassandraParkin
Was this review helpful?
The novel is based around Callie who works as a live-in caregiver two weeks per month and then lives at home with her father the other two weeks per month caring for her mentally ill brother, Noah. During her two weeks on, she works together with Josh in providing 24-hour care for a young adult man, Frey, whose illness is never actually labeled. We learn that Frey is non-verbal, very routine-oriented, and has numerous issues with cleanliness and tactile issues such as touch (possibly somewhere on the Autism Spectrum). Callie's brother Noah is the life of the party that the entire family adores, but struggles determining reality from fantasy hears voices, creates people and situations that are not there (possibly Schizophrenia). Callie and Noah's parents have been divorced for many years and Callie has not had a relationship with her mother until there is a tragic accident and they are suddenly forced together. 

Told entirely from Callie's point of view, you come to realize that she isn't the most reliable narrator as the novel goes back and forth between her childhood, her life leading up to and then caring for Frey, and then the present. It doesn't take long to realize that things aren't right. There was emotional abuse when she was a child, a laundry list of family issues, and slowly we begin to see that Callie's quiet and caring nature is a bit off somehow. Despite knowing that things aren't right, there are some moments that were truly shocking and uncomfortable. Even worse, the ending is incredibly ambiguous, leaving you to wonder what comes next for Callie, Frey, and Josh. 

I gave this novel a 4-star rating on Amazon in spite of the uncomfortableness of the plot simply because of Parkin's writing. Whether it was an inward memory, a conversation between characters, or even an exchange of glances between characters - everything was so amazingly descriptive that I felt I was right there witnessing it in real-time. I was frustrated with a recent book that I read because at the end of the novel I realized I had no idea what the main character looked like. After reading this, I feel like I can see Callie's fingertips as she was passing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle to Frey. I can picture Noah sitting on the rooftop when anxious and hear Callie's calm, quiet voice trying to calm him. I can see Callie's mom dropping her hand at the zoo when Callie was small and trying to share her excitement with her mom, and I can feel her rejection. 

The Leftovers certainly won't leave you smiling with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but I feel that it's worth reading to experience Cassandra Parkin's way with words. She painted a picture from beginning to end that, although the picture wasn't a happy one, will stay with me for quite some time. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
This is a tricky book to encourage others to read as its subject matter means its not a light read.  In fact, its a dark, uncomfortable read dealing as it does with the cycle of abuse. 
It centres around Callie a former nurse now working as carer for Frey for two weeks every month; the other two weeks are spent caring for her brother Noah.  Callie has no personal life to speak of and is a dedicated carer.  Both Frey and Noah have mental health issues and rely on Callie.  Following a car accident in which her beloved brother and father both die Callie is left to try and rebuild her relationship with her mother Vanessa.  Callie has grown up believing that her mother didn’t love her and now questions her mother’s motivation and actions as they come to terms with the tragic accident.  Family secrets are revealed and Callie has to deal with the fact that her childhood memories may not be as reliable as she thought they were.  She also starts to question her emotions/behaviour and the impact its has on her ability to care effectively for Frey.  
What I liked about this book was the  vivid depiction of the central characters who I found to be empathetic, even frosty Vanessa.   In addition, the mental health issues are never named or identified,  we just see how they affect Noah and Frey as well as their families. I particularly liked the chapter where we heard Frey’s voice - he doesn’t communicate verbally so this chapter gave an insight into his world.  His depiction of his time in the care home during lockdown is particularly topical and a damning indictment of the lack of real care the staff can give its residents.
More of this would have been welcome.  Overall, this book was a tough but interesting read and powerfully showed the impact of parental neglect and how it can change a child’s life as well as the cycle of abuse. 
Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read this.
Was this review helpful?
This book is so much darker than I expected. it defiantly will not be for everyone. I found it hard to stomach at times but was ultimately worth it.
Was this review helpful?
This is a very hard, dark and uncomfortable book. It was a hard, hard book to read and even harder to talk about. It's not going to be a book for everyone. In fact, I honestly don't know how many people are going to be able to read this at all. It's hard to stomach. It's about power and abuse and the cycle of abuse. 

Cassandra Parkin is a powerful writer and supremely talented. I think that this book shows an immense future in literature.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
I’ve read a couple of Cassandra Parkin’s books and I have more waiting on my TBR shelves. I was fortunate enough to interview her a few years ago when Underwater Breathing was published and she remains firmly on my radar. I am always interested to see what she’s up to!  Her books are unusual and deceptive in her ability to take a situation and send it hurtling every which through your reader mind leaving you sometimes battered and bruised emotionally but with that satisfying feeling of  having read a book of substance. 

The Leftovers is a challenging read in that it explores themes of ‘sexual power and consent’ together with notions of love and friendship, and making choices. Pertinent topically, too, there’s reference to the effects of lockdown on residents of institutions. Also of consideration is the treatment of mental illness and the wider reaching effects on both sufferer and family. It’s dark in places, hard hitting but the threads of love tie it all together.

Callie is the narrator, fragile and flawed, yet caring and loving. She cares for her brother and she has a client, Frey, who she cares for too. A tragic event is the catalyst for Callie to recount and examine her past and its impact on her present. Ms. Parkin seems to have an intuitive ability to understand and create characters that both fulfil a role in the narrative but also present as complete people who step off the page and into the readers’ hearts. Frey just broke my heart! But for him to do that he needed a writer who could articulate, so effectively and movingly, an autistic mind and bring him to life. The novel is very much character driven, Callie’s family and her colleague Josh are the cement which keep the narrative flowing through all its tribulations. Josh is a lovely character, aways seeming positive and upbeat and his treatment of Frey is delightful in his ability to care without making a big deal out of it. 

The book is a little like a roller coaster ride with peaks and troughs of unspeakable harshness and whimsical sequences of harmony and tenderness. Ultimately in spite of all that Callie goes through the conclusion, like life, is ambiguous. Some readers may find that off-putting if they are the kind of reader who wants all their ends neatly tied up but for others there is much to resonate for some time after you’ve finished the story. 

My thanks to Legend Press and NetGalley for a gifted copy.
Was this review helpful?
A book that drew me right in from the first pages.So well written characters that come alive a compelling read.A book that kept me reading late into the night.Lookingvfowardcto reading more by this author.#netgalley #theleftovers
Was this review helpful?
I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review 

I loved this one. Very fast paced, had me turning pages as I tore through it – I had to see how it would end.  The characters were well rounded and the narrative felt believable. Gave me chills. Solid five
Was this review helpful?