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Leave of Absence Paperback – Apr 1 2013

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Inkwater Pr (April 1 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592998836
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592998838
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,037,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9e4d5c18) out of 5 stars 27 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e7dd558) out of 5 stars A rich bridge of understanding Sept. 14 2013
By Grady Harp - Published on
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
HASH(0x9eefa9b4) out of 5 stars A well-written, emotional story!! June 10 2013
By Diamond C. - Published on
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
HASH(0x9eb82750) out of 5 stars An Honest, Heartbreaking Look at Mental Illness... March 11 2015
By terrylynn - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Once again author Tanya J. Peterson has given us a brilliant, heartfelt look into the lives of people suffering from mental illness and she has done it with a skill that's nothing short of extraordinary. She has an uncanny ability to take us into the minds of these tortured characters that she creates and the journey is at times horrifying as you realize the depth of pain clearly evident in Oliver's struggle to find a life worth living after the violent death of his wife and young son. Peterson's skill at accurately portraying these characters makes Oliver's pain seem almost a palpable thing.

The look into the mind of a woman in her late 20s recently diagnosed with schizophrenia is fascinating and achingly sad as Penelope tries to fight the voices in her head and focus instead on her fiance William who is determined to convince her that he loves her regardless of her mental illness and contrary to what she thinks, she is still worthy of being loved. Penelope is aware enough that she realizes how much she has changed and doesn't want to tie William down to someone who is mentally ill and all the life challenges that go along with the disease.

The very heart and life of this story is the profound and lifesaving friendship that Oliver and Penelope develop when they both end up at the Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. These two wounded souls are able to see beyond the agonies of their minds into the heart and soul of who they really are and their friendship is a deep and lasting one and is beautifully, richly and realistically portrayed by the author.

Leave of Absence is a revelation as we take a look into the lives of two very special people who are facing struggles most of us will never know but as you read this story you realize that behind each case of mental illness is a person who is struggling to find themselves and no matter where that journey takes them, they are still imminently worthy of love and respect and the right to a life well lived. Bravo Ms. Peterson for shedding light on such an important topic as mental illness and doing it with remarkable skill. Five stars for Leave of Absence.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ee594f8) out of 5 stars I loved it June 15 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Leave of Absence is a story about two people who suffer immensely from mental issues, but through each other's friendship they are able to face their fears and slowly accept the hope of a new beginning. Oliver suffers a huge loss and, finding it unbearable to keep on living, he attempts to take his life. He ends up in a behavioral center against his will, and finds himself warming up to Penelope, a patient who is unique in her own way, and suffering from schizophrenia. These two friends, each battling their own demons, reach out to one another in an effort to hold the other above water and keep them going. Penelope attempts to convince Oliver that his life is worth keeping, and Oliver and William -Penelope's fiance-, attempt to convince her that she is worth loving and her relationship with William is worth saving.

The novel is a very deep, heartfelt, touching novel about friendship, love, loss, mental illness, and most importantly, the significance of human connection. It is indeed heartbreaking to learn what mental illness can do to one's mind, body, self-esteem, principles, and just about everything to do with a person. This book gives us a glimpse of what goes on in a behavioral center, the constant support that is available to these patients (from the techs to the nurses to the doctors), the true nature of schizophrenia, the isolation that these patients feel as they are plagued by this illness and shunned by everyone around them, with little or no support. It reveals the bitter truth about how we act towards the mentally challenged - as though if we treated them normally, we would get their illness as well.

The novel also touches on loss and what grief can do to a person's psyche and outer body. Losing someone we love is a horrible thing, and not only does Oliver lose people he loved, but he also blames himself for it. This additional emotion is dangerous, and because he is unable to mourn and grieve properly, he is unable to move past that fateful day he lost them. He is severely tormented by nightmares and physical manifestations of his thought processes that seem real to him. With the help of his new friend Penelope, he is able to begin his journey towards healing.

I highly applaud Peterson for such a brilliant work. It is beautifully written - strong words that describe, portray, examine, and most importantly, show everything about the themes that need to be seen and understood by the reader. It contains some coarse language but not overtly so, and some descriptions are only mildly gory in terms of the imagery of blood and gunshots that come to mind. The only thing I found slightly confusing was the title; I thought the title was perhaps a bit too simple given the depth of the themes in the novel.

Overall, it is certainly one of the best reads I have read in a long time, and I highly recommend it to readers of any genre who simply love to read, whether just for entertainment purposes or for more.

***I was given a copy of this novel by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Ije Kanu
Literary Fiction Editor,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e8f6090) out of 5 stars Compassionate Portrayal of Mental Illness June 12 2013
By Leah - Published on
Format: Paperback
Following a failed suicide attempt, Oliver is admitted to Airhaven Behavioral Health Center, a therapy-focused facility for the mentally ill. He is unable to cope with the traumatic deaths of his wife and young son, for which he blames himself. Although he does not believe he deserves to live while they are dead, he forms a connection with a fellow patient named Penelope.

Penelope is in her late 20s and was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years earlier. Since developing this condition, she has faced major changes to her personality and rejection by her friends, who can no longer relate to her. Only her fiance, William, has stood by her as she has changed from an intelligent, vibrant young woman to a withdrawn person with strange ideas, such as her beliefs that Eleanor Roosevelt speaks to her and controls her actions and that creatures called "Kerffies" have a language of colors.

Oliver sees the way everyone -- even the other patients -- shuns Penelope and understands how badly she needs a friend. The two patients form a bond as Penelope tries to convince Oliver that he is not responsible for his family's death and Oliver tries to help Penelope realize that she is worth loving. Both characters struggle from very serious emotional trauma and instability, but they try to help each other heal and give each other reasons to live.

I really enjoyed reading Leave of Absence. Peterson has a background in counseling, and it definitely shows in her empathetic portrayal of grief and mental illness. There are so many stereotypes associated with schizophrenia that are inaccurate for most people who suffer from it, and Peterson does a fantastic job of portraying the human side of this illness. For example, William's friend Rod assumes Penelope is unpredictable, violent, and paranoid, although we can see clearly from her narration that she is none of those things. She is scared, sad, and deeply caring. Reading about her mental degradation and struggles with her self-worth was really affecting, and this book made me want to be more empathetic toward people suffering from mental illness.

I also really liked the way Peterson depicts Oliver's grief and lets his story unfold. When the story begins, we know that his wife and son are dead and that he feels responsible, but we do not know how they died. Oliver is completely uncommunicative and refuses to speak about his feelings. It's not until he is ready to talk about what happened that we learn the truth. I thought it was fitting that the reader doesn't learn what happened until Oliver is able to verbalize it.

I would have liked to see more backstory about Oliver and Penelope; their struggles in the behavioral health center are vivid, but I wanted to know more about what they were like before their troubles began. Oliver has flashbacks to life with his wife and son, and William conveys that Penelope used to be lively and work in advertising, but I think learning more about their personalities and day-to-day life before everything changed would have helped me relate to them.

I have an attraction to mental illness stories, and I would recommend this book to other people who are interested in this topic. Leave of Absence is a compassionate depiction of grief and schizophrenia that conveys how important love and support are for people who are suffering.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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