Title: What I Leave Behind
Author : Alison McGhee
Publication Date: 05/15/18
After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.
Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.
When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.
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I did really enjoy this little novelette. It has a unique structure– 100 chapters at only 100 words per chapter. Sometimes the wording choice was odd, as I am sure the author was trying to make sure she kept with the ‘100 word’ format, which limited her word choice at times.
The characters were done very well–I loved them and I honestly wish the author would have written this as a full length novel and fleshed out the events, characters, and themes at a deeper level. Will was a neat little guy who had unique personality. And there were so many ‘neighborhood folk’ who had a presence in the novel and also had really enjoyable personalities. I think her ideas really deserved a larger platform, even though the structure/length is very unique, because the ending-message was powerful.
Trigger Warning(s): Discussion of Suicide, Loss of Parent, Mentioning of Rape
Thank you to Alison McGhee & Antheneum for providing me with a DRC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.