Cover Image: Leaving


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A very beautiful love story of a couple reuniting after decades apart. A book about choices made, family relationships, and a real authentic look at marriage. Great for book clubs. Lots to unpack here! I found this a page turner - middle to end.
“I never thought I’d see you here,” Sarah says. Then she adds, “but I never thought I’d see you anywhere.” Sarah and Warren’s college love story ended in a single moment.

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Leaving combined two Micro Genres I love: Intense Love Stories that Aren't Romances and Demise of a Marriage Stories. It was 5 stars for me and is in contention to be one of my Best Books of 2024! Sarah and Warren were in an intense relationship in college, but that ended before they graduated. Years later and after believing they’d never see each other again, they run into each other at the opera. Sarah is now divorced, but Warren is still married and they both have adult children. And, the story explores where they go from here. This is a character driven book for sure, even quiet…until the point where it’s not. It’s sad, complicated, and felt VERY true to real life for me. Do you choose yourself or your kids? What if you can’t have both? Even if they’re grown adults already? This story, and especially the ending (which will be highly divisive) is particularly discussable. So, great for Book Clubs!

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Leaving is excellently written. The characters, while significantly flawed, were compelling. The parent-child relationships were painful to read but felt very real and raw. The pacing of the book felt a little off. We would follow the characters every day for a week and then jump forward in time four years. It was odd.

I really struggled with how to feel about the characters. At times I did not like them at all, but I also felt pity for them. Sarah seemed emotionally detached from everyone except her dog. I can’t say much about Warren without spoilers, so I will leave it with he’s complicated. And his daughter is a spoiled brat.

I’m going to give this book four stars, because I think I will be thinking about this one for a while.

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This is a beautiful love story about adults. Sex after sixty. Loneliness, love, emotions, quiet - all my favorite themes explored so beautifully.

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"Leaving" is a moving and complex novel about late in life love.
This book explores the profound moral behavior of family members and the effects it creates.
Robinson is a wonderful author.

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This is the first novel that I have read by Roxana Robinson. I am so impressed with her writing and ability to create such impenetrable characters and a story that reads like a film because it is crafted so well. Not everyone will be comfortable seeing the protagonists Sarah and Warren fumble through this unique story. “Leaving” invites debate, but readers that refrain from imposing a specific moral interpretation and allow the narrative to linger, shift and expand will ponder if the characters are indeed so strangely right together. I read the entire book in one day. As the protagonists relationship develops, I was pulling for them, even as I sensed that something might be around the corner that was going to leave my heart ajar. “Leaving” has the makings of a play in its steadfast focus on central themes of midlife love and living an authentic life conflicted by moral dilemmas. This will be one of my favorite books of the year. I’m still thinking about it. I loved a sentence in the novel that showcases how the author is exceptional in expressing the characters inner thoughts and emotions in creative ways—“She drives out of the city, through fitful rain and the steady slap of the windshield wipers, which say, Warr-en, Warr-en, Warr-en, over and over.

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When Sarah runs into her college flame, Warren at a night at the opera in New York City, it brings back a surge of memories. They are older now: Sarah is divorced, with grown children and Warren is married with a grown daughter. He asks for her email address and reaches out the next time he is in the city, asking Sarah to dinner. There are flashbacks to their college relationship and there’s a definite connection there which makes Warren question why he has been married to his wife for so long. He can’t stop thinking about Sarah and the feelings are mutual. This is a novel about marriage, regret, commitment, what it means to remain a parent to grown children, Feelings of longing and regret and sprinkled throughout, along with simple moments of domesticity. A beautifully quiet and reflective novel. Thank you to W. W. Norton & Company and to NetGalley for the advanced review copy.

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Leaving is a love story, but not a romance, and that is my favorite kind of love in a book. This is messy, complicated, and comes with so many content warnings, but I also think Leaving is incredibly important. This was intense and powerful and I love the questions about what we owe one another.

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"It's funny," she says, "when we knew each other before, we were just ourselves. Before you have any kids the idea of them is so peripheral. Then it was just something to worry about - getting pregnant has nothing to do with children, it had to do with us." "Now they're more central," he says. "I can't imagine things without them." Roxanna Robinson, Leaving.

This was a slow climb. A getting to know who they were - together, individually, and in their own lives. Sarah and Warren had a college love story and then it wasn't. Life moved on. And who we are today isn't who we were in college. Or is it? We want different things, yet inside we're still that eager, open, loving individual finding their way. This is their story. What happens when they reconnect, unexpectedly after forty years? Family, first love, parenting, careers, location and what place connects to identity. This is a love story. This is also a grown up, big decisions story all wrapped up in the obligations we create and the life we become when we decide what matters most. It's beautiful, unexpected and shattering.

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What a heartfelt book about falling in the love the second time around. The couple in this book wanted to be together so bad but a marriage and overbearing child kept that from happening. Both characters spent forever wondering what life might have been like for them. This book was a page turner.

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3.5 stars (Thanks to #gifted.) 𝗟𝗘𝗔𝗩𝗜𝗡𝗚 by Roxana Robinson is a tough book to review because I was left feeling so divided by it. The first half I absolutely loved, but around the 50% mark the story began to lose me. Before I get to why, I want to make clear that Robinson’s writing was wonderful here. In my notes I wrote that it was luminous and that held true from beginning to end. Now, what worked and what didn’t.⁣⁣⁣
This is a story of love lost and found. Sarah and Warren dated in college, seemed to be wildly in love, but their relationship faltered. At about 60, the two bump into each other and sparks again fly. An affair begins. Sarah has two grown children and has been divorced for years. Warren is unhappily married with a grown daughter of his own. I loved how Sarah was portrayed and the backstory of how she survived her divorce. I also loved seeing a strong older woman who was so comfortable with herself and the life she’d created on her own. The relationship between Sarah and Warren felt very real. This first half of the story shone.
“𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘨 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘴𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘦𝘷𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘚𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘩. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘨 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳. 𝘚𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘩 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘸𝘪𝘤𝘦: 𝘉𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘢.”⁣⁣⁣
Then we hit a character whose actions I just COULD NOT believe. That character became absurd to me and even more absurd were the reactions of other people in that character’s life. This character drove the second half of the story and for me it went in a completely unbelievable direction. I don’t usually need to suspend disbelief in a novel of literary fiction, but that was required in Leaving. Unsurprisingly, I also thoroughly disliked the ending. Sorry to be so vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Many love this book, so seek out other reviews, but for me an initial hit fell to more of a miss. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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I had to let my thoughts sit on this book for a bit because I really, really did not like the male protagonist in this book. I am landing at a solid 4.25 star recommendation for several reasons:

1. Roxana Robinson can write the heck out of a story. Her prose is meaningful and beautiful. Let me give you a sample: “Being a mother is paying it forward, sending that energy and feeling to someone who needed it at first to survive, but who, the older she becomes, needs you less. The older you become, the more irrelevant you are.”
2. The plot of the book focuses on Sarah and Warren, who broke up in college and run into each other when they are in their 60s at an opera. A love affair begins. Sarah is divorced and her ex has died. Warren is still married, but he is unhappy in his marriage. I loved reading a story where older characters were full and nuanced characters.
3. I can’t get enough of family dramas.
4. I did not ant to put this book down.


While I disliked Warren, he was a very full and real character. All of these characters jumped off the page and were real.

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This novel, an insightful and powerful examination of a conflict between honour and passion, asks what we owe both others and ourselves.

Forty years after their breakup in college, a chance meeting brings together Warren Jennings and Sarah Watson. Sarah, a museum curator, is a mother and grandmother who has been divorced for almost two decades. Warren, a successful architect, has been married to Janet for 34 years, and they have one daughter, 24-year-old Katrina. The two rekindle their relationship even though Sarah lives near New York and Warren lives in Boston. Warren admits to not being completely happy in his marriage; though Janet “has given him everything she has. It’s not enough.” When he tells her he wants a divorce, Janet resists and then Katrina threatens to totally cut him out of her life. Both Warren and Sarah must decide what they are willing and not willing to leave behind for true love.

The book raises so many questions. Is it morally acceptable to leave a marriage in order to pursue personal happiness or should personal happiness be sacrificed for the greater good, to protect “family, order, duty, honor”? What responsibilities does a parent have for grown children who are living independently? How does a parent maintain a connection with grown children? Should adult children have the power to emotionally control their parents? What do we owe ourselves and others when our choices have consequences, both for ourselves and others?

Point of view is particularly effective. The reader is given both Sarah and Warren’s perspectives. Because we are given their thoughts and feelings, we get to know them intimately. We experience their joys and sorrows and understand their motivations. We might not agree with their decisions, but we can follow their thought processes.

My feelings about the characters did not remain static. This speaks to the complexity of the characters: good but flawed people. Warren, for instance, had my sympathy as he sees his future as a life sentence of “the torture of false intimacy” or life without his daughter, yet I also felt anger because he sometimes seems so weak in his encounters with Katrina. His choice at the end, not removing his backpack, tells a lot about his character. I wanted to shout at the young Sarah for being so quick to jump to conclusions about Warren. Why didn’t she speak to him openly about her concerns? But of course “She’d known nothing about choosing a husband.” At times she tries to minimize her role in breaking up Warren’s marriage. On the other hand, her efforts to connect to Meg and Jeff are so sincere. The one person whom I consistently did not like is Katrina who just seems selfish, emotionally immature, manipulative, and implacably judgmental.

The ending is perfect. Given the discussions of operas and tragedies, it is predictable, but given what has gone before and Warren’s character, it is entirely appropriate. I would love a sequel focusing on the three women and their thoughts/reactions to Warren’s choice at the end. Would they question what happened and re-evaluate their actions? Would Sarah, if she suspected what happened, see Warren’s action as breaking the social contract “to see this through to the end”?

I highly recommend this book which has so much depth. It is so well-written: I loved the allusions to literature, art and the opera which work so well in developing theme. It is such an honest and authentic portrayal of marriage and family relationships. The novel would be an excellent choice for book clubs because it is so thought-provoking. Readers will certainly have strong feelings about who behaved honourably and who let passion rule and broke moral codes.

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This is a story about second chances.  Sarah and Warren dated when they were both in college.  Sarah comes to suspect the two may be incompatible, and breaks up with Warren suddenly.  Several decades later, the two run into each other at the opera.  They have both lived full lives since they parted -- each getting married, having children, and pursuing a career.  Sarah is now divorced and living outside New York, while Warren is still married to the woman he met shortly after his breakup with Sarah and living in Boston.

The spark between the two is still there, and what starts as correspondence turns into something more.  Sarah has some hesitancy about getting involved with a married man, but can't deny the feelings she has not felt for many years -- long before she divorced her husband.  Warren, though, is all in, having felt increasingly ready to leave his wife and start over with Sarah.  But when he takes steps to begin his new life with Sarah, his wife and his adult daughter react in a way that neither Warren nor Sarah expected -- forcing them to confront what they owe themselves, each other, and the families they built while apart.

I enjoyed this book.  It was an insightful story about the particular power of a second chance at first love.  The author treats Sarah and Warren's reconnection in a realistic and nuanced way. Although the strong feelings from many years endure, and in some respects are even stronger now that Sarah and Warren have more experience, those feelings must confront that they are different people, with a whole lifetime of milestones, attachments, and commitments, than they were as young adults.  The book also explores the realities of being the parent of an adult child in a thoughtful way, including how important that connection is for the parent but how uncertain they often are about what role they do, or can expect, to play in the lives of their children who no longer seem to need their parents.

Highly recommended.

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Sarah and Warren began dating before heading to different colleges. They broke up for reasons that were never clear to Warren, and both went on to marry other people. Over 30 years later, they run into each other. Sarah is now divorced, and Warren is unhappy in his marriage. The two soon begin an affair, which brings back many of the feelings from all those years ago. To both Sarah and Warren, it feels like at a chance at love that had long eluded each of them. As they move to formalize their relationship, though, Warren must confront what it will mean to his wife and daughter who have no inkling of his unhappiness, and what cost he is willing to bear to pursue his own happiness.

This is a perceptive story about family, parenthood, and love. Well written and with thoughtfully developed characters, the book offers interesting observations about the nature of love, and how it evolves, whether it is between a parent and a child or romantic partners.

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This story of reconnected lovers was gripping, powerful and profound. Warren and Sarah are in their 60s but were a couple in their younger years. They reconnect and begin an affair. Warren is married, Sarah is divorced. What follows is a page-turning tale of the obstacles and consequences that Warren and Sarah encounter due to their relationship. The ending left me shocked and desperately wanting to discuss with others about love, obligation and relationships. Highly recommend!

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This book was pitched to me as a romance that's not really about romance and look into the challenges life can offer down the road. Being somewhat masochistic, it sounded like something I might like! Sarah and Warren are in their fifties with adult children when they run into each other at an opera. They were in love in college but ended things over a misunderstanding, and reconnect all these years later. Sarah is divorced, and Warren is unhappily married. They start a romance, and the nitty gritty of their lives all these years later is exposed. This book almost felt like a's so easy to be idealistic in your 20s and 30s but this book is the hard look at how life often really ends up, so far from everyone's original intentions.

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Leaving is a heavy, challenging book about the choices we make. It's a study of the different relationships in our lives: spouses, lost loves/old flames, and the relationships between parents and their children.

It's about making awful, hurtful decisions as well as sacrificial decisions in which you give up your own happiness for the happiness of others.

The writing in this story was beautiful. I will say that I'm glad I read the e-book version, because there were several words that I needed to look up the meaning of, and I LOVE that. I love books that expand my knowledge or introduce me to new words, especially in a way that doesn't feel pretentious. The words I didn't know were put there with intention and they fit the writing style and the story. They weren't put there just for the author to flex her literary muscles, if you know what I mean.

This book is somewhat dry in its delivery (not in a bad way), but if you are someone that likes a fast-moving, plot driven story, this might not be for you. That said, I am someone that often prefers plot-driven stories, or ideally, a book that is both character and plot driven. I'd say this book is definitely more character-driven and we spend a lot of time inside the characters heads, seeing things from their perspective. But this is done so well that I never felt bored or that the story was dragging. There were definitely some little plot points that felt unnecessary to the story, but they went by quickly and never annoyed me - they just didn't really serve a purpose in the overall story.

I will say that this book will pull you in different directions. Characters make poor, hurtful decisions, but then later you feel sad for other decisions they were sort of forced to make. There's essentially no way for a happy ending for everyone, and this is not a joyous, uplifting book. But it's a very real book about the decisions people have to make. It's a great look at the complexity of different relationships and how the decisions we make impact those relationships.

If my review seems vague it's because I don't want to give away any spoilers. Anyone that has read the synopsis may think it's a "second chance" romance. But it's not a HEA light romance read at all. It's a much more thoughtful, heavy book than that, so just be prepared for that if you are looking for a HEA.

The ending of this book did feel a bit abrupt and left me shocked, but then when I looked back and saw how it fit a certain dialogue that was weaved throughout the book, I was blown away.

I loved this book and while I don't think it will be for everyone, it was definitely for me.

Thank you to W.W. Norton & Company and NetGalley for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

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A beautifully-written, heartbreakingly twisty tale of star-crossed lovers, who may in fact, now get a second chance to be together, almost forty years after their original romance.

Sarah Carson Blackwell is sixty-ish, divorced, with two grown children, and is long used to living alone. (Note: well, not quite alone, as Sarah has quite possibly the best literarily-developed doggie ever, the long-limbed and graceful Bella, who has every bit as much personality as Sarah herself. This reader spent the first half of this story worried sick about Bella, who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in Sarah’s house, pitifully left alone, overnight and longer).

When Sarah unexpectedly runs into Warren, her old college flame and perhaps the only man she ever really loved, catching up may both resolve old misunderstandings, and rekindle feelings long held dormant for each of them. The only remaining issue, and a major one, may be that Warren, now a very successful architect, is also very much married, with one adult daughter of his own.

Without giving the plot away, Sarah, struggling with the realization that “the older you become, the more irrelevant you are”, longs for “a secret cocoon, made by the two of them”, as she remembers being held by Warren, “as though she was a treasure”. At the same time, Warren, feeling “his marriage wrapped around him like skin, close and tight”, can only dream of escape and rekindled beginnings.

Told with beauty, grace and quiet aching vulnerability, this story shines a light on love, in all its intricacies, tangled up with missed opportunities, meddling families, messy complications, the trials of aging, and the confounding of responsibilities, once freely taken on. Without giving the plot away, (no spoilers here), there are no easy answers for Sarah and Warren.

Recommended for lovers of fine-fiction laced with more than a touch of poignancy, this is a read brimming with a whole host of complex personal moral, broader ethical, and always emotional questions.

As the plot meanders and turns, hitting bumps that this reader found agonizingly difficult to process (someone is in need a REALLY good wake-up shake here!), a resolution of sorts inevitably materializes. And it’s an emotional one, (only predictable late in the tale), that for this reader, scored high on the definite lump-in-the-throat test.

A great big thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.

*** four and a half shiny stars

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Leaving is a complicated, messy love story that I thoroughly enjoyed – but I know it won’t be for everyone. If adultery is a trigger, stay away. If you don’t enjoy characters that don’t always make the decisions you want them to, this book is probably not for you. If you’re still with me, read on.

Leaving is about college sweethearts that go their separate ways and then reconnect in their 60s. Warren is married; Sarah is divorced. But they feel a pull toward each other and their strong feelings for each other come flooding back. To be together, the couple must make big decisions that will have irreparable consequences. What consequences are worth being happy? Is it worth the hurt and heartbreak? How do we decide what’s right?

I love books that ask big, complicated questions. The writing is gorgeous but very accessible, and the characters feel very real in all their messiness. I think this would make an excellent book club book, because there is so much to discuss here.

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