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Leave of Absence [Paperback]

Tanya J. Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 1 2013 1592998836 978-1592998838
In this insightful and evocative novel, Tanya J. Peterson delves deeply into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. When Oliver Graham's suicide attempt fails, he is admitted to Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. Unable to cope with the traumatic loss of his beloved wife and son, he finds a single thread of attachment to life in Penelope, a fellow patient wrestling with schizophrenia and its devastating impact on her once happy and successful life. They both struggle to discover a reason to live while Penelope's fiancé William strives to convince her that she is worth loving. As Oliver and Penelope try to achieve emotional stability, face others who have been part of their lives, and function in the "real world," they discover that human connection may be reason enough to go on. Written with extraordinary perception into the thought processes of those grappling with mental illness, Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
May 4/13 - At about the half-way mark of Leave of Absence I set aside the novel to take a few moments here to write about my experience reading this touching story. With red-rimmed puffy eyes, my emotions are definitely heightened, learning of Oliver's story and what brought him to this point of his life. When a story is so well told that the reader, from chapter one, experiences such an emotional connection with the characters therein, I have to say the author has achieved what some cannot....that sought after but not easily accomplished connection that draws the reader in to the lives of the characters, making them come alive and their emotions mirrored within the reader. That, thus far, is what Tanya J. Peterson has done in Leave of Absence. I am empathizing with Oliver and Penelope and William; I have cried, I have smiled, I feel of them. Leave of Absence is powerfully written.

Now that I have finished reading this novel, I am touched to the core by the very essence of it. Truly it is rare when a book comes along with a story that addresses issues of mental health and does so in such a manner that the reader is immediately drawn in, involving them through their emotional responses to the situations and especially to the characters themselves. Leave of Absence is that rare book. Tanya J. Peterson narrates in the third person but it is as if Oliver, William and Penelope tell their own story. Their perspectives are unique and compelling and I totally empathized with each one of them.

Leave of Absence is the voice for those unheard and misunderstood. It has the power to create empathy and to foster hope. That is why I love this book!
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich bridge of understanding Sept. 14 2013
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
LEAVE OF ABSENCE is a novel that simply has it all. Beginning with a cover design by Emily Deuker utilizing Karam Miri's `Missing One Chair', Tanya J. Peterson writes a story that is a solid human interest novel, but at the same time it is a means to introduce her readers to begin to understand mental illness - those various maladies that separate reality from non-reality in the bruised synapses of people who have either inherited or have been induced into the bizarre chaos of a world that no longer makes sense by use of ill-advised medication, substance abuse, or most specifically and commonly, events so traumatic that thought processes are jumbled into an inescapable labyrinth.

Peterson comes to her writing gifts both as one who has experienced mental health issues with a bipolar I disorder and as an educator and a counselor who is Nationally Certified and has devoted her life to aiding homeless, runaway adolescents and patients with mental health malfunctions, both in one-on-one situations and as a speaker and mental health writer. Where she excels is in her ability to place on the written page the processes of thought disruption as viewed and spoken by the afflicted ones while at the same time offering insights into the techniques of mental health workers who assist their patients in returning to a life that once again is focused.

Her story opens with a suicide attempt by one Oliver Graham whose life has blurred since the loss of his wife and child and whose rescue is only partially thwarted by the assistance of Gregory Jacobi, a police suicide intervener, allowing Oliver to live and be transported to Airhaven Behavioral Health Center where he is gently nourished by members of the staff: the interchange of the sensitive assistance of the healthcare personnel is deftly described as is Oliver's italicized staccato words both in this mind and spoken - a technique not seen before but one that allows the stage of the story to reveal equal insights between patient and caregiver. Also in Airhaven is a schizophrenic girl Penelope who believes she is under the biding of Eleanor Roosevelt: again the same manner of placing works on the page adds tremendous insight into the ways mentally challenged patients react to the confusing outer world. The story deals with how Oliver and Penelope engage and together begin the path toward functioning in the world they have found so intolerable and confusing.

Few writers have been able to express so sensitively the variations of thought processes that assault patients who are suffering from degrees mental illness. Peterson creates a solid novel here but she also opens doors of understanding so rarely provided for the general public. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, September 13
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written, emotional story!! June 10 2013
By Diamond Cronen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book isn't typical the type of book I read. I like to step outside my comfort zone, though. I'm glad I did. The story immediately got me hooked. It starts like the beginning of an action movie. A man about to jump off a tall building. We jump from the Police officers perspective to the suicidal man, Oliver. But it's not like "here's what I'm thinking and this is why I wanted to die." Nope. We really learn at the pace of the workers of the mental health treatment facility he is sent to. We learn piece by painful piece as the past flashes before Oliver and consumes him.

The poor man has dealt with tragedy. He's shattered. He makes a friend; a strong woman named Penelope. I really loved Penelope. She has schizophrenia. Depending upon how much you know about mental illness, you will have some altered opinions. I thought I pretty much knew more than the average person does about those sort of things and even I was surprised at some stuff. I guess it's more fitting to say I > learned > some things. And I like what I learned.

It's a very emotional book. It's a tearjerker. I cried, not always out of sadness. Sometimes out of grief, or relief. Either way it pulls your heart strings. There's something very honest and poignant about this story. The writing is magnificent. It was one of my favorite parts actually, besides the characters. Oh, and some characters will piss you off. I'm not going to spoil anything but I seriously wanted to SLAP Rod. Or kick him. Repeatedly. Lol. And I wanted to hug Oliver. Any book that can make me feel all these things is a winner.

**********SPOILER AHEAD*********
[Another great thing was the ending. I thought it would end very tidy-- problems solved. Especially given the fact that both main characters had society-functioning and fulfilling roles before their illnesses took over. I was a little curious by this, by the way. I'm not sure if this was meant as a statement saying; hey, many of the people in mental institutions once had lives and careers-- and can continue to once they get the help they need. It's true, and I completely agree with it. I just hope the reader believes it. Oh, so back to the ending. It didn't end how I was half-dreading it to. I thought it would either end with Oliver dead, or a pretty pink bow with everyone back to a picture of health. I can't say how glad I am it didn't go either of those ways!!]
************END of Spoiler**********************

Mental illness is devastating. Not just to those directly affected, but to their families too. I really like how the book shared a lot of William (Penelope's fiancée's perspective). It shows just how far the tendrils of illness reach when they touch those we love.

If you like contemporary fiction and emotional stories; you'll love this book. I am definitely going to be recommending it to my friends. I know you'll fall in love with Oliver and Penelope.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching story Sept. 4 2013
By caroldee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story brings to life the consequences of tragedy and mental illness on the individuals suffering and their loved ones. Well written, great character development and a compassionate true to life story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave of Absence July 31 2013
By Didsan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Leave of Absence is a poignant and haunting novel told not only from the points of view of people suffering from mental illness, but also from those who love them and from those who do not. Peterson presents a picture of schizophrenia from an aspect I have never seen before: one of the lover who truly cares for the victim of this condition. She also depicts in exacting detail the dysfunctional people and events that can cause a kind, caring, loving person to sink into a deep depression. Her writing creates sympathy and empathy for all the characters, both the functional and the affected. She gives lucid and accurate descriptions of therapies used to deal with these incapacities, and her novel has given me a greater insight into a 21st century view of how to cope with a problem that has plagued humans for millennia than I had before I read this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex, insightful, moving July 27 2013
By ERH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really liked it. This is a moving story of some very troubled people trying to cope with severe PTSD sometimes in quite dysfunctional ways. It is also the story of how wounded and damaged people can help each other heal and become whole again. Written with compassion and sensitivity. Not an action story, it is slow moving, poetic in style delving deeply into emotions and the long lasting effects of trauma.
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