Book Review : Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson

November 5, 2015 Book review 21 ★★★★½

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!

Book Review : Leave of Absence by Tanya J. PetersonLeave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson
Published by Inkwater Press on 4 Jan 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Depression & Mental Illness, Emotions & Feelings, Psychological
Pages: 327
Format: eBook
Source: Received from Author
Buy on Amazon

“Each substance of a grief has twenty shadows.” -- William Shakespeare

Hollywood 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.

AMAZEBALLS CREATIVE Must-Read Refreshing Tear Jerker

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.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-half-stars


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.


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21 Responses to “Book Review : Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson”

    • trish

      I really did walk a painful mile in these characters shoes and it was very enlightening. I also came away feeling like I had learnt things that I can apply to my own life so it was a great read all round.

    • trish

      Phew, it definitely didn’t hold back on the gritty and it was hard to read at times. But it also an amazing read and I totally fell in love with these characters. So glad to hear you are adding it to the tbr, I wish more people knew about this book.

  1. Laurel-Rain Snow

    Wow! I haven’t heard of this one, but it’s definitely on my radar now. Thanks for your great review. I’m drawn to books about mental illness, and this one sounds like it has much to recommend it.
    Laurel-Rain Snow recently posted…AUTHOR’S HOME PAGE

    • trish

      I know we often feel the same about books Laurel so I think you’d really enjoy this one. It has depth and doesn’t hold back from the gritty details but it’s also heart warming and made me burst with feels! Definitely one for the TBR!

  2. Donna Barker

    Glad to see your strong recommendation since this is not a book I’d naturally gravitate toward.

    Also, want to say I LOVE the new book tags and look forward to seeing their pages populated. Great idea! Hope you have one for “quirky” eventually.
    Donna Barker recently posted…Bookmark quotables

    • trish

      I enjoyed that aspect too, it would have just felt too artificial if they fell in love. And I loved that they had such a supportive friendship, I wanted to reach into the the book and do a group hug with both of them!

    • trish

      It was SO intense and I loved how realistic it felt. Definitely one of the best books about this topic that I’ve ever read. I loved that it didn’t hold back and showed the good and the bad of living with mental health issues.

    • trish

      It was dripping with emotion and I was a wreck after reading it! But I loved how emotionally attached I got to the characters. Especially as it was so unexpected, I never thought that it would draw me in as much as it did.

    • trish

      The colour therapy was really interesting as it wasn’t used a therapy in the hospital. Instead it was one patient helping another with her ideas. It was so creative and I got really in to it, it was one of (my many) favourite parts of this book.

  3. Lola

    This sounds like a very powerfull and intense book with how you feel all the emotions. Although I am not sure if this would be a book for me for those reasons. I do like how you mention it displays mental illness realistically, it’s greta when a book does that right, especially with how there are no easy solutions. And schrizophenia is one of those mentall ilnesses there are so many misconceptions about. I learned a bit about it during my psycholoy study and I think it sounds like one of the most terrifying mental illnesses. Great review Trish!
    Lola recently posted…Lola’s Kitchen: Hazelnut Paste Cookies Recipe

    • trish

      The book really portrayed how frightening it can be for people to live with this illness but it was also hopeful and showed that with support, it can be done. The book was fab and it was one of my surprise favourites of the year.

  4. dawn obrien

    this definitely sounds a tough read and not one I would usually go for, but I think I will step out of my usual and give it a try, thanks for the recommendation x

    • trish

      I can understand that! It was outside my zone too and it took me about 18 months to read it. But once I got into it, I absolutely loved it. Definitely one of my favourites of the year as it was so unexpectedly special.

  5. Dee @ Dee's Reads


    I AM SO HAPPY THAT MY RECOMMENDATION WAS ACCURATE . (love how I shamelessly grabbed credit?? 😉 hahaha!

    Seriously though, I STILL think about this book, Trish. That’s how amazing I felt it was. It’s just one of those stories that sticks with you too. Did you cry a little? I did..get teary eyed. And you know how I usually dislike contemporary books or books that are tear jerkers, but this was different. So, I am glad you read it and loved it as much as I did! ^_^
    Dee @ Dee’s Reads recently posted…Release Day Celebration! Ten Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (+Giveaway!)

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