Read Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson Online


“Each substance of a grief has twenty shadows.” -- William ShakespeareHollywood has stereotyped the schizophrenic. Prepare for your perceptions to be shattered. Penelope Baker grapples with schizophrenia. She has suffered losses, and her grief has deep and numerous shadows. Oliver Graham, utterly bereft, wrestles with guilt. He has suffered losses, and his grief has deep a“Each substance of a grief has twenty shadows.” -- William ShakespeareHollywood has stereotyped the schizophrenic. Prepare for your perceptions to be shattered. Penelope Baker grapples with schizophrenia. She has suffered losses, and her grief has deep and numerous shadows. Oliver Graham, utterly bereft, wrestles with guilt. He has suffered losses, and his grief has deep and numerous shadows. Leave of Absence unveils the complexity—and the humanity—underlying psychological struggles. 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’s devastating impact on her once happy and successful life. They both struggle to discover a reason to live while Penelope’s fiance 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 dealing with mental illness, Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia. It has a place in the classrooms of counselor-educators, among support groups for those with mental illness and for their caregivers, and in the home of anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing....

Title : Leave of Absence
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781592998838
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 327 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Leave of Absence Reviews

  • Leah (Books Speak Volumes)
    2018-12-18 17:22

    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 schizophrenic 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 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.More book reviews at Books Speak Volumes.

  • Trish at Between My Lines
    2018-12-08 16:21

    This review was originally posted on [Between My Lines]Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson is one of those books that I have overlooked for far too long.  It’s has been lingering away unread on my kindle and now I want to hang my head in shame about that.  Because this one is an underrated gem and it needs to be read and praised!First Line of Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson: "Officer Gregory Jacobi eased himself slowly into a sitting position on the ledge of the roof of the eighteen-story building."Things I loved about Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson: Oliver and Penelope: When we first met both of these characters, neither of them wowed me.  They were odd, broken and even a little unlovable.  BUT page by page, they won me over and before too long my heart was bursting with feels for them.  They are totally unforgettable and even thinking about them now I feel all warm and gooey.Strong Friendship:  Oliver and Penelope are not a couple.  They are strangers who meet in a mental institution and slowly build a rock solid friendship.  It is one of the strongest, more supportive friendships I’ve seen in a book and it’s the kind of friendship that everyone aspires to have.Mental Illness Theme: This is done so well.  It’s not fairytale like and there are no easy solutions or straightforward cures.  It’s sad and heartfelt but ultimately hopeful.  It made me understand so much than I had previously about schizophrenia and I feel that I’ve had a glimpse of just what it’s like to have this illness.Palpable Pain:  I don’t want a book with such a serious theme to be wishy-washy, I want to feel the emotions.  And I did.  The pain that radiates off Oliver just about broke my heart.  He is suffering from Post Traumatic Shock and severe depression.  And nothing is watered down.  I felt broken just thinking about his life.  And every now and then I’d be lured into a false sense of security with a lovely memory that he was thinking about and then I’d be jolted back into his reality with a shocking bang.Artistic Feel: There is a fantastic section on colours and colour therapy.  It’s so vivid and imaginative and I loved reading about this.Overall this is an unforgettable book, with unforgettable characters.  It delivers a powerful message on what living with a mental illness is like and it has made me hugely aware of just how I can be more supportive of anyone I come across in similar circumstances.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.   Who should read Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson? I’d strongly recommend this to anyone that wants to read a book that is straightforwardly honest about the reality of living with a mental illness.  And that has characters that you connect to and that make you live and feel every emotion.  Fans of OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu should also enjoy.Thanks to the author for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • John Williams
    2018-11-20 19:18

    I read more for character development than plot, and though the plot of Leave of Absence is also interesting, what makes it shine are the nuanced portrayals of human beings stripped to their core by the collision of societal expectations of “normality” and their own aggrieved self-perceptions. Each character is both vulnerable and quietly resilient, battling against personal demons and the mind’s simple chemicals, and I was left feeling I’d lived within each character for a time and understood what people so superficially different than I must endure to even see themselves as equal to the rest of us. It was heartbreaking but not sentimental. I appreciated that approach. And its voice and style show an incredible degree of empathy. It’s a deceptively simple read, and as you reach further into each character you realize nothing about them is simple. Having experienced mental illness firsthand from people close to me, I wish I’d read this book before knowing them. I’d highly suggest Leave of Absence to anyone interested in multilayered character development and who read for pleasure or for a greater understanding of those among us who are silently suffering and enduring.

  • Jessica
    2018-12-01 19:09

    What is normal? That’s one of the questions Tanya J. Peterson has us asking while we read Leave of Absence. It’s an engaging, heartbreaking read and if you only read one book this year, it HAS to be Leave of Absence. You won’t regret it and you’ll see the world a little differently. Peterson has done a phenomenal job writing about a taboo subject. In a world filled with science and understanding, you’d think we’d be more open to talking about mental health, but we shy away from it. Oliver Graham lost his wife and son in a terrible accident and blames himself for their deaths. Wanting to numb the terrible pain he attempts to commit suicide, but when his attempt is thwarted he’s taken to Airheaven Behavioral Center. There doctors and nurses try to get him to open up and talk about why he felt the need to take his own life, but Oliver keeps quiet. One day he reluctantly agrees to attend a music group where patients pick out songs or just listen to what’s being played. One song transports Oliver to a day he spent with his wife and he’s distraught, but another patient, Penelope, is there to offer support. Slowly they begin to form a friendship and rely on each other, while their friends and family members must cope with what the world thinks of them. From the opening scene, Peterson’s Leave of Absence is powerful and engaging with a few humorous moments. The writing is beautiful and the emotions Peterson conveys will leave you heartbroken and in tears. Character development is strong. She spends an equal amount of time on Oliver and Penelope and it’s enough to really let us connect with them. Penelope becomes enduring and you can’t help but love her. She’s a schizophrenic and has Eleanor Roosevelt telling her what to do. As we get to know what she’s experiences, you can’t help but think about real life and how there’s a real Penelope out there that doesn’t have a support system and that makes your heart ache. Oliver is an interesting character because he’s clearly suffering from survivors guilt and grieving for his family. Peterson doesn’t come out and tell us exactly what happens to Oliver’s family, but slowly she opens up like Oliver does. I can see why Oliver would attempt suicide and you can feel his desperation. We learn about how his parents died and I won’t say anything regarding their deaths, but he still has to live with that memory.While Leave of Absence is about Oliver and his life prior to the suicide attempt and after, it’s Penelope that is the heart of the novel. It’s through her that Oliver gets to heal and slowly open up. Oliver often questioned why he lived and I believe it was to encourage two people who clearly love each other not to give up. I admit, I had my doubts as to where Peterson was leading because she introduces Mariska, Penelope and William's newest neighbor. Mariksa has eyes for William and every time William spoke to her, I wanted them apart for Penelope’s sake. William never gives up on Penelope and every time he gave his reasons for loving her, I was sobbing my eyes out. Your heart aches for Oliver and Penelope, but you are cheering them on. The entire time I kept thinking, I’m so glad they had William and Matt. Peterson also gives us a glimpse into what people truly think about the mentally ill. William experiences it with his best friend, Rod, who often tells him Penelope is a lost cause. Oliver experiences it with his brother in law who questions if Oliver is fit to be left alone with his nieces and nephews. Peterson also touches upon an important problem in our society. Grief can make us do unthinkable acts and it’s okay to ask for help, but society always expects those grieving to be able to move on right away. I can’t help but think to the film, PS I Love You, where only a few months after Holly’s husband dies, her friends want her to sleep with a good looking Irishman hoping she’ll get over her grief. In Oliver’s case, his mother-in-law blames him for the death of daughter and grandson and even goes as far as to suggest Oliver should kill himself. Here we have two broken people who need help and while Oliver tries to deal with his emotions, his mother-in-law is blaming him for something he couldn’t have prevented. I have a few favorite scenes, but I adore the scene in which Oliver asks Penelope about the Kerffies, an alien form that are tiny who left their planet to explore Earth. My favorite quotes:"Caffeine even makes ghosts hyper. Let’s remember that next Halloween. We’ll send caffeinated ghosts out trick-or-treating and really raise some money for UNICEF.""When he looked at her, he didn’t see a schizophrenic; he simply saw the woman he loved, a wonderful human being."I loved Tanya J. Peterson’s Leave of Absence. It’s a powerful and engaging read. Novels on mental illness can either be well written or turn into a caricature. Peterson gives us detailed descriptions and we can feel the internal turmoil Oliver and Penelope are experiencing. I highly recommend Leave of Absence.Review originally posted at Literary, etc.

  • Teressa Morris
    2018-12-06 14:34

    As my regular readers know, we have dealt with our share of mental health issues in our family. Bud has generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and chronic insomnia. Art's uncle has bipolar disorder. Art's grandfather had paranoid schizophrenia. I have also had bouts of anxiety. So it was with great interest and trepidation that I started Leave of Absence. I was fearful that it would read like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.But just a few pages in, I realized that this book is something completely different. Something special. Tanya J. Peterson captures the agony and beauty (and yes there are both) of mental illness in both Oliver and Penelope. The characters help you to feel what they are feeling. I had a harder time connecting with Penelope's character because she hears voices, but I could identify with how she felt when she asked her fiance' to leave because she didn't want to burden him with her illness. There have been many times when I have asked Art why he stays. After all, he didn't sign on for an anxious asthmatic. I was a normal, bouncy teenager when we met.Penelope's fiance', William, describes his love for her in this way: It was a deep, all-encompassing love that didn't just stop when things became difficult. When he looked at her, not just at her happy images in photographs, but at her, no matter how she was in the moment, he saw Penelope. He didn't see a mental illness. He saw the whole picture - the woman he loved who happened to be experiencing something awful.That was just the first time I cried while reading this book. There are so many touching moments as Oliver learns to confront his past and accept his feelings and Penelope learns how to work with the voices in her head. At one point in the book, she explains to Oliver how for her shapes and colors have meanings. For example, blue is love or friendship, lines are truthfulness and octagons are gratitude. After she meticulously draws out beautiful geometrical patterns for Oliver so he can have a "cheat sheet" of her world, he responds in this way: He reached for the box of crayons on the table and slowly slid out a blue crayon. He drew an octagon on his paper. His hand shook and he made the lines all wobbly, but it was still recognizable as an octagon. Inside the octagon he drew a stick figure with a ponytail and labeled it "Penelope." He drew a line under the octagon.Anyone who has or knows someone with a mental illness will appreciate the journey of Oliver, Penelope and their loved ones take toward healing and understanding.

  • Shawn Verdin
    2018-11-22 16:29

    With Leave of Absence, Tanya J. Peterson has proven to be not only a knowledgeable and insightful mental health professional, but an extremely talented storyteller as well. I decided to begin reading this book on a Sunday afternoon, thinking I’d read the first couple of chapters. I could not put this book down and read it in one sitting! I was drawn in initially to the suspenseful introduction to the book, but was quickly redirected to the heart of the book. Ms. Peterson did an exceptional job of developing the characters of Oliver and Penelope and making them and their pain come to life. Her training and experience as a mental health professional is apparent as she has the ability to evoke empathy from the reader. From the beginning, I felt compassion for Oliver. I felt the pain of his loss. I understood his longing to end the pain. I wanted so badly for him to feel some relief. When I was introduced to Penelope, I was fascinated by her and in awe of Ms. Peterson’s ability to bring Penelope and her illness to life. I was invested in these characters early on. The inclusion of Penelope’s fiancé William was instrumental in showcasing unconditional love and support. Please do not think this is a technical book that is going to try to educate you on mental illness. This is a touching story of loss, friendship and love that will warm your heart while increasing your understanding of mental illness. You cannot read Leave of Absence without developing a bit more compassion and a whole lot of hope. Put simply, I loved this book! It is definitely one of the most heartwarming stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I sincerely hope Ms. Peterson treats us to another novel soon!

  • melydia
    2018-11-26 20:15

    When Oliver's suicide attempt is thwarted by a well-meaning police officer, he is sent to a behavior health center where he meets Penelope. Oliver is suffering from PTSD after the death of his wife and son; Penelope and her fiance are struggling with her recent diagnosis of schizophrenia. They form an unexpected friendship. This description makes the story sound kind of dull, but it's not. I've never read such a sympathetic fictional depiction of mental illness. Penelope's fiance, for example, still loves her deeply and wants to marry her, and she can't figure out why he hasn't run screaming. The ending is uplifting but ultimately realistic, a very good introduction to how people cope with loss, grief, and illness.

  • Emily Dueker
    2018-12-02 20:13

    I’m already recommending Leave of Absence to friends working in the social services or struggling with mental “disorders” themselves. Tanya J. Peterson is able to portray schizophrenia and depression in a way that is not only raw and realistic but hopeful. As a reader, you are bonded with the Penelope and Oliver who struggle and those who love them. There are no “quick-fixes” but the way the characters journey together leaves us with a sense that life is still meaningful in the midst of hardships and unexplainable struggle.

  • Linda Franklin
    2018-11-24 18:13

    I was extremely impressed with Leave of Absence. Ms. Peterson's extraordinary understanding of and empathy for individuals struggling to cope with the challenges of mental illness is remarkable. Like other great novels dealing with this subject, Leave of Absence neither sugar-coats the problem nor leaves you with a "pat" happy ending. Instead the reader is left with a sense of hope but by no means certainty as to Oliver, Penelope, and William's futures.

  • Barbara
    2018-12-01 18:08

    Leave Of Absence is an extraordinary read! Oliver's loss and his struggles with mental illness. Penelope and Oliver's journey to helpone another while both try to overcome mental issues. It keeps your interest throughout the whole story. This is a book I would highlyrecommend.

  • Meagan
    2018-12-03 15:07

    I've won this book through a Goodreads 'First Reads' giveaway.Full review to be included once I've read my new book! :)

  • Erin Al-Mehairi
    2018-12-18 19:28

    May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but mental health awareness is still such a societal struggle–there is still a battle being waged to break down barriers–so when a book comes along such as Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson, I become hopeful that it can carry a message about mental illness beyond any certain month, but throughout the year, for many years to come!After reading Leave of Absence, I believe that this book is so complete in its portrayal, so accurate and endearing, that it could possibly be a catalyst of modern literature that brings the true mental dilemma of human nature to light. Peterson understands the mental illness in her characters. Instead of giving a dramatic portrayal of characters, such as what you sometimes see in the movies, Peterson shows the struggles and emotions her characters, especially co-protagonists Oliver and Penelope, go through in their minds. She paints a vivid and clear picture of their thoughts and desires. She showcases the internal angst that people like Penelope, who are diagnosed with schizophrenia, deal with just to keep facing the day, every day. She makes us aware of the fact that not only do they have to battle their unwanted internal struggles, but they also have to face the guilt they feel for what they think they do to their family and friends.Leave of Absence was a book more centered on character development than plot, as we began to feel connected to Oliver, Penelope, and even William, Penelope’s fiance, which is what really needed to happen for us to be focused on the message Peterson was writing. I felt Peterson’s portrayal of William, with his steadfast, understanding, patient, and unconditional love for Penelope even when she felt she did not deserve it, was so compassionate and touching. I know many people with mental issues who have felt that they were, or are, a burden to their loved ones and I was happy to see Peterson take this angle.Even though some parts of Penelope’s schizophrenia were humorous, such as Peterson’s portrayal of the voice in Penelope’s head as a dictating Eleanor Roosevelt (Mrs. Peterson–Eleanor was such a strong supporter of women’s rights and by the way, I’m related!! LOL), I felt that overall as a reader I grew to love her. Penelope’s creative and caring mind was so touching. Which I hope, overall, might be the message.I suppose you can probably tell by now that I grew most connected to Penelope, even though it is Oliver we first encounter jumping off a building and going into the behavioral health unit. Oliver becomes a die-hard friend and support system to Penelope and I loved as their relationship unfolded. If it wasn’t for William, I would have loved to see Oliver and Penelope become a couple and for that to help Oliver overcome the loss of his wife. But instead it did show a wonderful platonic friendship, which are also so valuable in the healing process for so many with depression and mental illness.I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary reads that shine light on the nuances of human nature, but I also recommend this book for caregivers, family and friends of those struggling with mental illness in hopes that it would help them to find more compassion and understanding. The book is also a wonderful piece for those studying sociology, social work, or psychology.

  • Fiona Ingram
    2018-12-05 16:34

    Can fiction depict the raw truth of mental illness and instability? In Leave of Absence, author Tanya J. Peterson creates a searing story that offers insight and understanding into a world that most of us will never comprehend or experience. When Oliver Graham’s wife and child are tragically killed, he walks away from his life and off the edge of a building. Saved against his will by a brave and quick-thinking police office, Oliver enters Airhaven Behavioural Health Center. However, he doesn’t want to be there: he wants to be dead. He finds a shred of a connection with inmate Penelope who is struggling with schizophrenia. But Penelope has someone who wants her to live. Her fiancé, William, loves her and still wants to marry her. Penelope struggles to cling to the last remnants of sanity as the voices in her head, led by the dominating personality of Eleanor Roosevelt, threaten to take over. Oliver is consumed by guilt that he was not there to save his family; Penelope is consumed by guilt that she is wrecking the life of the man she loves. This odd couple (Oliver and Penelope) lean on each other, comfort each other, and try to give each other a reason to live.This book is no easy read as it delves into the convoluted workings of the disturbed mind. Oliver’s mental breakdown comes from terrible grief and anguish, while Penelope’s is physiological and she requires medication to control her mind. Leaving the safe haven of the center is not easy and there is no happy ending with Penelope and Oliver riding off into the sunset with their respective loved ones. Instead, they struggle to cling to even the barest semblance of reality. The terror of panic attacks, the horrifying descent into perceived madness as the voices control the body is graphically described, suggesting the author’s personal experience in working with these conditions and intense research. One cannot read this book and remain distanced; one must plunge right in and share the agony. Oliver’s pain and Penelope’s instability draw the reader into their world, and one finds oneself inhabiting the character’s skin. The reactions of Oliver’s family and William’s friends perfectly capture the kind of collateral damage that happens when someone near and dear is ‘less than normal.’ Author Tanya J. Peterson has both the experience and education to fully investigate the anguish of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Ms. Peterson also has a deft and sensitive touch as she humanizes her characters, making us want to understand them, making us want them to be saved by something or someone, and at last, we see they must save themselves. A story of grief, friendship, downfall, and redemption, the threads of hope shine ever bright as Oliver and Penelope put their own pain and fear aside to help each other. The book is not about plot, in fact, it’s about life and two people who have to rebuild their broken realities. This is an excellent book for both sufferers of mental disorders, and their circle of family members and friends to read to gain insight and awareness into both temporary and more lasting mental disorders. Highly recommended. 5 Stars.

  • J.B (Debbie)
    2018-11-24 14:09

    Oliver has nothing to live for. He just wants to die. Its as simple as that. He has lost the two most precious people in his life and the world simply holds nothing for him anymore. He just wants to be with his wife and son who have been murdered. However, a failed suicide attempt sees him being admitted to Airhaven behavioural clinic suffering from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Barely able to function on even the most basic level, Oliver is soon helped and supported by the staff at the clinic. However, he no longer has any fight in him and the desire to give up his life is overwhelming. Then he meets Penelope at the clinic. She is a patient there too and is trying to come to terms with her schizophrenia. She longs to be the happy and carefree woman she was before her illness took a grip off her life and relationships. She has her wonderful fiance William to love and support her but Penelope struggles with whether she should stay with William and inflict her illness and its limitations on him. Together, Oliver and Penelope support each other and this very unlikely friendship is the one thing that helps either one make sense of the world. This is a totally amazing book. Its a courageous book that is not afraid to tackle what is essentially a taboo subject - mental illness. The story is one of pain, grief and heart breaking sadness. Yet amongst all those things there are two things that shine through - hope and love. The story follows two very confused and desperate people as they struggle not only with their mental illnesses but also with the stigma that is attached to them. The story not only looks at their struggle from their own perspectives but also from the perspectives of those who love them. William's character is amazing and his love for Penelope is beautiful and unconditional. For William, she will always be his Penelope and her schizophrenia is merely an extension of who she is. Oliver's pain throughout this book is palpable and the reader becomes so invested in this character that his grief becomes our grief and our hearts break alongside his. This book had me reduced to tears on more than one occasion. However, do not mistake this book as a sad and negative book. It is anything but that. Its a book that highlights the strength of the human spirit and the beauty that can be found even in the most cruel situations life can throw at us. It is a book about friendships found in the most unlikely of places. Leave of Absence will leave you feeling more aware of the needs of people living with mental illness and hopefully more aware of the support they need - not judgement or fearful of conditions not easily understood. Leave of Absence will surely serve to educate and make us all a little more compassionate. Tanya J Peterson has written such an excellent book that was difficult to put down. I thought about her characters and their plight often throughout the course of reading this book and knew that the book had affected me on so many levels. I'd highly recommend Leave of Absence.

  • Diamond
    2018-12-10 19:11

    A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 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. (view spoiler)[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!!(hide 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.

  • Ashley
    2018-11-24 13:06

    Tanya J. Peterson’s Leave of Absence has also made the list of contenders for my 2013 favorites. At times heart wrenching, the story of Oliver and Penelope will leave you with a new understanding of mental illness and remind you that we’re all in this dance of life together.From the book description: “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.”My heart broke for Oliver, of course, so broken from losing the people in his life he loved the most. I have never felt a loss to that degree, and could only imagine the depths of his hopelessness. But Peterson’s writing illuminates Oliver’s despair in a way that those of us unfamiliar with severe depression can appreciate. Similarly, Penelope knows she sick. She knows that she does not function the way she did before her illness. She knows she converses with people no one else sees, and she knows this isn’t “normal”. She can’t understand how her fiance can still love her and want a life with her. This is another struggle that Peterson plays out beautifully, making Penelope sympathetic without making her actions seem selfish or selfishly altruistic.But through all the pain, all the angst, there is still a thread of hope. At first just very tiny, we see it grow throughout the story- although not without its loops and back steps.Leave of Absence is about mental illness, yes, but ultimately so much more: the power of hope, of human connection, of daring to believe that things might get a little bit better, of being open to being loved.While it isn’t a light read, I still say put this one on your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.- See more at:

  • Anne Mackle
    2018-11-23 20:26

    The book hooked me from the first page where we are introduced to Oliver who is standing on the roof of an eighteen story building ready to jump and a police officer is putting his own life at risk trying to talk him down. I'm not going to tell tell you how, but they both survive as without Oliver we wouldn't have a story, but my heart was in my mouth for a few pages.Bit by bit and told through the dreams Oliver has we find he is suffering from such extreme grief and survivors guilt that he just doesn't want to live, in fact through the story you almost feel it is cruel to keep him alive when he is in so much emotional pain.He is admitted to a behavioural centre where Matt, his carer, tries to get to know him and find a way to get through to him, but Oliver refuses to take part in any of the activities until he meets Penelope who has schizophrenia. They develop a tight bond and each want the other to lead a normal life and to realise that people love them for what they are.Penelope hears voices telling her what to do and these voices tell her that shapes and colours stand for different types of emotions,she uses this to help Oliver process the outside world and seems to get through to him more than the activities offered by the centre.William is Penelope's Fiance, he also befriends Oliver and tries to understand what he is going through. He loves Penelope just as she is but she can't understand that and is insistent that he leaves her and leads a normal life as life with her will never be normal again.As we read more into the book there is a race against time to save both Penelope and Oliver from themselves,can they be saved?As I have said often on this blog I like to leave a book with a little bit more knowledge or insight into a subject than I had before and this book made me understand mental illness and grief more than any textbook would. I immediately liked Oliver and Penelope, I wanted good things for them and willed them to happen. William, Penelope's fiance is a lovely man, someone you could rely on in a crisis and when his so called friends criticised his decision to stay with Penelope it made me so angry.Oliver's grief came by chance, the wrong place at the wrong time but he didn't see things that way, he blamed himself and no one could change his mind.Once I started to read this book I couldn't put it down and I'm pleased to say I liked the ending,while giving a conclusion it still left things a bit open for you to wonder and decide in your own head how things may have worked out. Well done Tanya.

  • Erin Cataldi
    2018-12-15 18:18

    Mental illness carries such a stigma which is a damn shame because it is infinitely more complicated and confusing then we can ever imagine. Tanya J. Peterson does a masterful job of shedding light onto one of the most pressing and important topics of our generation. The media exploits mass killings, suicides, and health care to such an extant that mental health is put in very a negative spotlight. Keeping an open mind about mental illness is the only we can begin to understand the complexities of it. We take medicine for our bodies when something is wrong so why is there such a stigma when we take medicine for our minds?Peterson's story follows Penelope and Oliver, two people who are suffering from something outside their control. Oliver is admitted to Airhaven behavioral treatment center after he attempts jumping off an 18 story building to end the guilt he has for not being able to save his wife and child from their untimely deaths. While there he meets charismatic Penelope, a kind hearted woman who is suffering from schizophrenia. Other patients shun Penelope who is prone to make outbursts or cause a scene but Oliver finds a kindred spirit. Their journey towards healing and coming to terms with life outside the treatment center is humbling. Peterson really illuminates the characters raw emotions and the reader can't help but feel connected to these two poor souls as they to find reasons to live for in a world so un-accepting of their conditions. To date the only books I've read that deal with mental illness are: "Silver Lining's Playbook" and "The Curious Incident of the Nighttime Dog." This book however goes above and beyond and manages to humanize people who are suffering from many different forms of mental illness. It is a true eye opener.

  • Rebecca Scaglione
    2018-12-05 17:15

    I received this book from the publisher, Inkwater Press, in exchange for a fair and honest review. Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson was very different from what I expected, but a book I greatly enjoyed.Oliver has suffered a severe crisis, and in turn, is suicidal. He is placed in Airhaven, a Behavioral Health Center, to help treat his mental illness.While at Airhaven, Oliver befriends Penelope, a fellow patient who battles with schizophrenia. Penelope is very unique, but a really sweet, caring individual. Unfortunately, the other patients don’t see this side of her, except for Oliver.Penelope battles with seeing her “true” self, the amazing person she is, who just happens to have schizophrenia. She continually pushes away her fiance, who has been with her since before she was diagnosed.Oliver’s battle is with forgiving himself and feeling like a valued individual.This story was heart-wrenching and there was a scene at the very end where I REALLY was nervous, but it all just made the story that much better.The only negative I have, and some people might just think I’m completely wrong, but I thought that at times there was too much positive thinking. The friends and supportive family and patients were just TOO supportive at times for my liking. I know, small negative, but just felt like I needed to point it out.Thanks for reading,Rebecca @ Love at First Book

  • Kristen
    2018-12-12 17:20

    I received this book as a First Reads :)Leave of Absence was very refreshing! Aside from living it, I have read many fiction books that involve characters with mental health issues and this is one of the very few that portrays the characters as (dare I say it?) "normal". Penelope is written as a person and not the stereotyped "out of it" character individuals with schizophrenia are portrayed to be. Peterson did an amazing job of showing the human side that all of us with mental health issues have. It is our real and true side!Near the end I did start to get a bit frustrated because I felt like I was reading a fantasy. Everyone seemed to know how to talk to each other, knew the right things to say and could cope quickly. I found myself becoming angry that very few people had spoken to me with such kindness. It just seemed very far fetched. Maybe I know the wrong people?Overall, Leave of Absence is worth reading and I think it is a valuable aid in breaking stereotypes and showing what having a mental health issue is really like. I found myself flipping each page with ease and I looked forward to reading it!

  • Ellen
    2018-11-21 20:31

    Normally, I love to talk about the characters first, move to the plot, and then spin in any other thoughts that I have about the book. I don't think that my normal M.O. will really work for this novel, however. It's much too extraordinary. Mental illness has constantly attracted a strong, yet undeserved stigma in society, one that Peterson attacks with unconstrained vigor. Her protagonist, Oliver, is facing the bottom of the bottom - he feels he can't sink any lower. His newfound friend, Penelope, feels the same. Although both characters are dealing with different types of mental illness, they find a common bond - compassion. Despite each of their own problems, they each find the time to support the other, through whatever comes their way in Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. I liked the decision to make Oliver the prominent narrator, although William and Penelope narrate their own perceptions as well. The book is written in third person the rest of my review at The Canon!

  • Sarah Fox
    2018-12-18 17:31

    Disclaimer: I won a free copy through Good Reads First Reads.Review: Despite the somewhat annoying typos, I loved the subject and story. Sometimes, the slow cadence was hard to read, because while I understand the reasoning, I don't read or speak that slowly. Again, I loved the story: Oliver Graham is dealing with grief and recovering from a traumatic experience. The book opens and end with Oliver's suicide attempt. Oliver finds and is given reason to live. While at Airhaven Behavioral Health Center, Oliver meets Penelope, who has schizophrenia. Oliver and Penelope form an attachment and support each other. Penelope's fiance, William, continues to love, wants to marry, and strives to convince she is worth loving. William accepts Oliver; discovers Oliver's sister, Frannie; and the support system expands. Oliver is on an open-ended leave absence given to him by his supportive supervisor. We, Oliver, Penelope, William, and Frannie learn much during the Leave of Absence, a time of discovery, support, healing, and recovery. The book ends with hope and a new purpose for Oliver.

  • Shirley
    2018-12-08 17:13

    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.See My Bookshelf for the full review: http://shirley-mybookshelf.blogspot.c...

  • Deborah Blanchard
    2018-12-18 20:35

    I was lucky enough to have won an ARC copy of this incredible book. Mental illness is a touchy subject to many people. As someone who suffers from bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorder and PTSD, it exceeded my expectations. It was very well written and flowed along effortlessly. Although it is a work of fiction it captured the very essence of mental illness and also how it affects those around you. It will give insight to those who are interested in this subject and also those who deal with someone who suffers from mental health issues. It is a book that needs to be read by all. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it will not disappoint.

  • Claire
    2018-12-01 15:18

    Review published at Bitches With Books. To read, click the link!Excerpt: Let me get a confession off my chest now: This book made me cry. Embarrassingly so. Maybe it's because I read it when I was having a bad day or because I was stressed, but the various struggles that each character endured wormed its way into my heart.

  • Nancy Morecraft
    2018-12-04 19:12

    Loved, loved this book! It had me from the first page and couldn't put it down. I finished it in a few hours and didn't want it to end. Loved all of the characters and if I ever needed to be committed (no comments lol), Airhaven is where I would want to be! Will definitely read more of Tanya J. Peterson.....thank you goodreads!

  • E.V. Legters
    2018-12-09 19:05

    Tanya Peterson illuminates the delicate, layered worlds of the mentally ill and those who love and care for them. Difficult subjects -- attempted suicide, guilt -- are handled with compassion, depth, and hope.

  • Allmythidi
    2018-12-13 16:33

    4.5-5 star book. I really enjoyed reading this book. Emotionally powerful. I couldn't keep track of how many times my eyes teared up reading Leave of Absence. Wonderful flow. Beautifully written. I won this book through a Goodreads First-reads giveaway.

  • Daniel Scarborough
    2018-12-09 15:12

    Draws you in at the first sentence and holds your attention. Gives a unique perspective of mental illness. A recommended read, for sure!

  • Lizzi
    2018-12-14 21:15

    Full review here: