What I Left Behind by Jennifer Archer
Sometimes the most compelling thing about a story is that you can see yourself in the characters. Other times its the idea that they are something completely different from you. And sometimes, the right story and the right characters hit on a theme that you may not have experienced yourself, but it immediately strikes a cord. This is one of those books for me. It’s about connection and love, about acceptance and longing, but most of all it’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable so you can listen to your heart.
The first thing that stood out to me about this book is the fact that protagonist, Allyson Cole, or Al as she is known to most of her friends, is a successful, single, fifty-something who is still a bit afraid to trust love. She’s got everything going for her, but there are parts of her past – a boy she loved who up and disappeared on her and a baby given up for adoption – that are keeping her from truly living her life. It’s the kind of thing that as an almost-fifty something myself, made me stop and really consider…how well am I living this life? #midlifeexamination #reallylive
When a grandson Allyson never knew she had shows up on her doorstep, what follows is an unforgettable road trip to get to know each other and to find some answers.
With flashbacks to the summer of love and Woodstock, and a bitter-sweet and understandable tension, by the time I got to the end of the book, I just wanted to invite the whole cast of characters over for dinner and give each of them a big ol’ hug. If you read this book, have the tissues handy, you’ll need them. But I promise, they’ll all be worth it in the end.
For me, this line sums up the charm of this book: “Sure,” I answer. “Why not?” After running down an eighteen-wheeler, being chased by a pit bull and trading punches with a biker, riding a horse should be as easy as boiling water.
For a main character who isn’t the “typical” women’s fiction heroine, the bitter-sweet nostalgia, the laughs, and the reminder that somethings things work out just as they are supposed to, this book gets five heartstring-plucking stars from me.
After decades of heartache, Allyson Cole has finally found happiness. The owner of a successful restaurant and newly engaged to a man she loves, she’s ready to put her regrets behind her and embrace what lies ahead. But when a boy named Nick Pearson shows up at her door claiming he’s her grandson and needing her help, Ally can no longer ignore the questions that have haunted her since she was sixteen.
Leaving her fiancé and her life behind, she embarks on a cross-country road trip with the orphaned teen to find his grandfather – Ally’s first love who disappeared without a word thirty years ago, leading her to give up their baby for adoption. But will learning the devastating reason he tore her life apart release her from the past…or draw her back?