Monday, August 26, 2013

(70)The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind

Pages: 384
Publication Date: August 20, 2013

The Girl You Left Behind is a story of two women, a painting, and nearly an entire century separates the two women.

First there is Sophie LeFevre it is the year 1917 and her husband, Edouard, has left their small French village to go off and fight the war.  Sophie is left behind with her sister and young brother to run the family tavern. Things get even worse when the Germans move into to occupy their small village.  Especially when the Kommandant forces Sophie and Helene to prepare meals for him and his men.  From the very first night he enters their establishment the Kommandant is taken with a painting that Edouard did of Sophie years ago.  The painting is titled The Girl You Left Behind.  It is their mutual love of art that forms a tentative friendship between the two enemies.  A tenuous friendship that eventually causes Sophie great trouble and eventually gets her sent off to the prison camps in Germany.

Flash forward to the year 2006 and we meet Liv Halston.  Her husband passed away four years ago and Liv is still a mess. While on the outside it looks like Liv has her act together she really is just hanging on by a thread.  She is having a really rough day when she decides that she would have a better shot being left to drink in peace at a gay bar.  It is there that her day gets even worse when her purse is stolen.  One of the guys at the bar offers to walk her home and Liv is pleasantly surprised to learn that the handsome Paul is not gay.  She lets her guard down and eventually invites him home. The next morning Paul rushes out of her home with no explanation and it is not long before she learns why.  Paul is an investigator that works with families who had artwork stolen by the Germans during both World Wars.  His eye was caught by the artwork that Liv's late husband bought her on their honeymoon, artwork that he has recently been commissioned to find and return to the LeFevre family.  Liv has The Girl You Left Behind hanging on her bedroom wall.

What happens next is an epic legal battle that may cost Liv everything she has left,  but she is determined not to let Sophie go without a fight.  For it is the haunting Sophie in  The Girl You Left Behind that got Liv through the darkest days after her husband's death and she cannot fathom what her life will be like without that painting hanging on her wall.  But what about, Paul.  What happens to her relationship with the only man since David that has made her feel alive?  Will their tenuous relationship survive this battle or will Liv lose him on top of everything else.

The Girl You Left Behind is a hauntingly beautiful novel that will break your heart.  After the initial introduction to both women, the novel flashes back and forth between the past and the present.  The details of Sophie's detainment was utterly heartbreaking. Even knowing what was likely going to be the outcome, I kept hoping that there would be a "happy ever after" for Sophie and Edouard.  And so was the heartbreak that belonged to Liv.  It was so clear that her life was destroyed by the loss of her husband and just when she thought she was making progress in her grief by being with Paul things blow up regarding the painting.  My heart just ached for Liv, I felt so horrible for her and her loss was almost contagious to me as the reader.

Bottom line, JoJo Moyes has a way of writing such beautiful works of literature.  Her characters and their feelings are so vivid that it is easy to be swept away to another place and in this novel, another time.  If you are looking for a novel to touch your heart,(and really who isn't?)  then you must read The Girl You Left Behind.


Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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