The Leaving: A Novel

Rated 5.00/5 based on 2 reviews
Cathy is a conflicted teenager living in 1980s Dublin. She soon discovers that her charming older brother Stevie, who's gay, is falling in love with her classmate Ron, the one boy she likes. Cathy struggles with school, her dysfunctional family, coming to terms with her growing love for her best friend Jeanette, and leaving Ireland. The novel is a realistic look at adolescence and first love. More
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About Gabriella West

Gabriella West was born in Santa Barbara in 1967. In 1969, her parents moved to Dublin, Ireland, and she grew up in Ireland, studying English and Italian at Trinity College, Dublin. She graduated and left Ireland in 1988.

She earned an MA degree in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University in 1995.

She has published nine LGBTQ-themed novels: The Leaving, Time of Grace, Elsie Street, The Pull of Yesterday, and A Knight's Tale: Kenilworth. The follow-up, A Knight's Tale: Montargis, was published March 2018. Return to Carlsbad, the last book in the Elsie Street contemporary gay romance trilogy, was released October 2018. The Knight's Return (2022) completes the Knight's Tale series.

Gabriella West lives in San Francisco, CA.

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Reviews of The Leaving: A Novel by Gabriella West

FarFromHome reviewed on Aug. 21, 2011

As I became involved in Cathy’s story, the book took on a compelling “can’t put it down” quality. It is rare to find a writer who can so exquisitely breathe life into a character. At times, the depth with which the reader was allowed to see Cathy felt almost sacred, knowing that as we shared her most private thoughts and feelings, we were surely being allowed a glimpse into the author’s life as well, into those places and thoughts that are never privy to those around us.

The story itself felt rather grim, as we followed Cathy through her painful teen-age years, preparing for ‘The Leaving’, pursuing her studies in preparation for the exams that would determine the path she would take in life. Cathy is painfully introspective, her intelligence as much a curse as a blessing as it tends to further set her apart from her peers. She feels awkward and different from those around her, but her courage in firmly holding to her convictions rather than the living a life that would be a distasteful lie for her, makes us care for her in a protective way as we watch her struggle through relationships in which she often faces rejection or scorn. Even the intellectual intimacy and emotional closeness she shares with Steve is scarred. At times he is cruelly distant or mocking towards Cathy, his behavior a protective shell he has formed around himself as he explores his homosexuality in a time and social climate when that lifestyle was not an acceptable option.

Cathy at last completes ‘The Leaving’, and rather than pursue the higher education that she has qualified for, passes through a different sort of leaving, her curiosity and courageous convictions prompt her to leave the proscribed life in her hometown in Ireland for one unknown, traveling to London to follow Stevie. Cathy eventually outgrows her confident brother, leaving him, the last vestige of the familiar, to pursue life far beyond the confines Stevie has established in his own escape.
(reviewed 63 days after purchase)
Hannah Hummel reviewed on Aug. 5, 2011

It's a good book for teenagers and young adults that want to read about self-identity, coming out of the closet, relationships, acceptance and maturity through the eyes of a female fictional character.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
mirrani reviewed on Aug. 4, 2011
(no rating)
The Leaving was described as "a realistic look at adolescence and first love" and it cannot be denied that this well describes the book for prospective readers. The story is very realistic, with realistic relationships and feelings, including much confusion regarding relationships between both friends and lovers. No sweetener is added to the emotion or background of the characters, they are purely themselves, showing us life through their eyes. The title itself comes full circle from the beginning of the book, where Cathy and her brother are in school, each taking their turns in participating in the Leaving, graduating school and moving on into adulthood. They find they are leaving previous lives and relationships behind them, something I thought was rather fitting. In reading the original description, I did expect a little more of a love triangle aspect of the story, perhaps more focus on the relationships mentioned, which I felt somewhat dumped into the middle of, but such is the case with meeting someone new. They have had lives before I came along, the feeling only adds to the realness of the characters and their situations.

As an American, I felt it was somewhat strange trying to experience the events and emotions behind The Leaving. Having not grown up in Ireland or otherwise experienced life around that part of the world in the early eighties, I was uncertain that I could believe that every person encountered in the book should feel so negatively about themselves or their situation. The book introduced misery and despair into the lives of those within, offering no moment of happiness to anyone and I would hope that even the most upset of persons would be able to find even a speck of joy in some random moments; laugh at a joke, be amused at a movie or book, fall in love with a new place or experience, but that did not happen often enough to these characters. Cathy, who tells the story, constantly focuses on what is wrong with the every event in her life (even the rare happy ones) as she and her brother, Stevie, go about their lives resigned to the misery that is their shared existence. They are aware of their situation and simply accept that it is how it will always be, the only escape is to flee.

Surprisingly, even after reading through all of Cathy's focus on the despair of her situation in her family, friends and in place in her own country, I found myself wanting to know more about her, wanting to know if she would find a way to change even one little thing to make a difference in it all. Though it wasn't a cheerful book, it also was not a morbid tale of gloom and doom, simply a sort reminder that this is life for someone somewhere in the world. The story's rotation through leaving school, friends, family, country and an old life was somehow addictive, leaving me feeling as if I had just been introduced to someone new at a bar and we sitting down to learn about each other. I would hope that, like me, other readers will discover how change is possible if you really want to step outside of something to reach for it and that they will learn to find the future in front of them, no matter what might have happened in the past.

Note: Though this book was a free gift from the author, the content of my review was in no way influenced by the gifting. The book speaks for itself and my review would have been worded just this way even if I'd gone out and bought it. I also give bonus points for Text To Speech enabling on Kindle format.... but that also wasn't a factor in the above review.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
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