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Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite
Workaholic Carin Frost hasn’t been herself since her mother’s sudden death in The Year I Left, a tender yet honest examination of one woman falling apart and the cost of being true to herself. Carin trudges through her daily life as depression begins to overtake her, avoiding her bills and her husband, Jack, as she longs to feel alive again. When Carin meets Matias Torres, a new colleague at work, she feels a spark return. Carin doesn’t want to betray Jack, no matter how empty their marriage feels, or her ten-year-old son, Charlie, and Matias is engaged anyway so Carin tries to carry on with her life. But Matias and her mother’s death are catalysts for change that Carin can’t avoid forever.
Christine Brae’s The Year I Left is a masterpiece of women’s fiction, detailing an extraordinary period in Carin’s life through a poignant narrative. Brae’s pose is pointed yet lyrical, and the interesting stylistic choice of including passages addressing Matias directly in the first person narrative works astoundingly well. The symptoms and effects of depression are accurately conveyed and while the reader may not be able to relate to Carin’s troubles consistently, it’s impossible to avoid feeling compassion for this desperate and brave character. The romance between Matias and Carin is convincing and affectionate, subverting the tropes surrounding extramarital affairs. Part two of The Year I Left takes an unexpected turn that leads into the snarled complexities of running away from problems before reaching a delightful conclusion.