Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Love She Left Behind

A dead woman is the central character of The Love She Left Behind by British author Amanda Coe (What They Do in the Dark). The deceased is Sara, who, 35 years before her death from stomach cancer, deserted her husband and children--Nigel, then age 13, and Louise, age 10--and gave up everything to live with Patrick, a playwright for whom she was muse. Patrick never had any fondness for his stepchildren. After Sara uprooted her life for him, he paid for Nigel to attend boarding school and Louise was shipped off to live with an aunt after their birth father remarried and rejected them.

The book opens in Cornwall, in the now-dilapidated house Sara and Patrick shared. Nigel--a married, type-A lawyer and father--has little care or respect for Louise, a divorced, overweight, working-class mother of two rebellious teenagers over whom she has little control. They are faced with Patrick's irritability, drunkenness and writer's block. As the three go over details and assimilate the contents of Sara's will, it is revealed that the couple's house and the dramatic rights to Bloody Empire--a popular play Patrick wrote in the 1980s--were put in Sara's name for tax purposes. Patrick battles Nigel and Louise over the transfer of ownership, and brother and sister also lock horns.

Coe employs dark comedy to piece together and acutely observe emotional issues dealing with abandonment, loss, death and grief. The idea that we do not truly know the ones we love serves to solidify the cracked fault lines in the foundation of this thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking family saga.

The Love She Left Behind by Amanda Coe
W.W. Norton, $25.95 Hardcover, 978039324543, 256 pp
Publication Date: July 15, 2015
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (7/14/15), click HERE