AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK // REVIEW BY JULIE FORD
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Anna Blauveldt’s The Leavetaking. This isn’t a crime novella, nor is it speculative fiction, but it is that ‘something else’ we love to cover in Tangled Web Magazine—a well-written, enjoyable, and poignant read that lingers in your mind.
Blauveldt carefully leads us through the final days of Molly, a woman in her mid-sixties who has experienced health issues pointing to something more sinister. Molly is about to turn 65 and, despite her health concerns, she arranges a luxurious getaway with three old university friends to celebrate.
Since university, the three friends have gone in different directions. Beth is a successful and independent estate agent. Molly is an optimistic, chirpy writer. Hope has one of those lives we all love to hate, displayed in all its flawless perfection on social media. While Willa, the black sheep of the group, is unmarried, childless, and has not enjoyed the same success of her friends.
Each woman has her secrets, and over the course of the story the cracks begin to show. Some find the courage to be vulnerable and share their load, others do not.
While the reunion is mostly a happy one, at times tensions rise, betrayals are unearthed, and yet friendships are rekindled. Ostensibly, this is a novella about the struggle of facing our mortality, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about how true friends may grow apart, may not see each other for years, but will gravitate back to one another when it matters. It’s about how a burden shared is a burden halved. It’s about how all marriages go through ups and downs, and how even the worst betrayals can be forgiven, if not forgotten, as our lives wind down.
The story is laden with references to the pandemic, and I did wonder how this will age. This is a period many of us actively try to shut out of our minds. It was a little uncomfortable being reminded of lockdowns, second waves disrupting Christmas plans, and masks. Despite that, it is not contrived, and the setting gives the story a distinct timing, situating it in the immediate aftermath of the worst of those dreaded Covid years. Many writers have deliberately avoided setting stories during this period, but Blauveldt does not shirk this troubling time. While it may be jarring for some, it worked for me.
Character-driven, poignant, and sad, The Leavetaking is a beautiful novella. It took a little time to hook me in, but once it did, I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend giving it an evening or two of your time.
The Leavetaking | By Anna Blauveldt | 172 pp. | Broken Keys Publishing | Paperback £11.89