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Leaving Las Vegas

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,006 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Leaving Las Vegas, the first novel by John O'Brien, is a disturbing and emotionally wrenching story of a woman who embraces life and a man who rejects it, a powerful tale of hard luck and hard drinking and a relationship of tenderness and destruction. An avowed alcoholic, Ben drinks away his family, friends, and, finally, his job. With deliberate resolve, he burns the remn ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published November 22nd 1995 by Grove Press (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

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Buggy
Opening Line: "Sucking weak coffee through a hole in the plastic lid of a red and green styrofoam cup, Sera spots a place to sit down."

Charming at times yet brutal in its honesty LEAVING LAS VEGAS is ultimately a graphic and depressing love story. There is no hope for redemption here and author John O'Brien makes no apologies for it, having committed suicide soon after the movie rights to this book were sold, many consider LLV to be the authors suicide note to the world. However this is also a b
...more
Lawrence FitzGerald
John O'Brien was an alcoholic. He died at the age of 34 by a self inflicted gunshot two weeks after learning that Leaving Las Vegas, published four years earlier, would be made into a movie. He was already too far gone by the time fame had found him.

The story is about two lost people (three if you count Al, Sera's former pimp) on the fringe of society, lonely and alone. It is a drunkard's fantasy, as O'Brien through Ben tells us numerous times, about a tragic drunk and a hooker with a heart of g
...more
stacy
Oct 16, 2007 stacy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody interested in or already courting disaster
this book was so powerful... (how powerful was it?)

it made me call my brother and ask how's he doing.
Rafa
Dejadlo todo, salid a por esta novela. Una vez leída, la película os parecerá vulgar y ñoña.
E.D. Martin
It was slow at first, but then when Ben and Sera meet, it was really good. Really, really, really good. And I appreciate that she didn't try to save him.

*******

"I only have eyes for you,...and we both know that you would never become romantically involved with a trick."

*******

"'That's amazing,' he says, truly impressed. 'What are you, some sort of angel visiting me from one of my drunk fantasies? How can you be so old?'

She turns away on the pillow and says to the wall, 'I don't know what you're
...more
Jeremy
I was a fan of the film - in particular Cage's performance - so came to this novel with high expectations, and it delivered. O'Brien manages to thread together some strong, all-too-human character sketches into a marvelous, haunting story. It is both beautful and thickly sad. Triumph and tragedy are rarely so interestingly and engagingly welded together. It's unconventional (almost drunken?) structure fits it well. Perhaps, in points, the narrative focus can get a little abrasive in the sense of ...more
Jonathan Sturak
One of my very favorites. Leaving Las Vegas is a study of three characters lost in their own worlds.

Sera grows from a naive girl lost on the streets in Los Angeles to a smart, sexy, and increasingly independent woman working the streets in Las Vegas. I understand why Sera does what she does, and so does she.

I particularly like Ben. He is the guy you see stumbling through the shadows at 2 am. Ben is lost in the world he lives in, shunned by society, by everyone, but he is grounded in his own worl
...more
Linda I
This is an interesting and compelling story which explores the depths of prostitution and alcoholism. Sera is a former Hollywood prostitute who fled to Las Vegas to escape her abusive pimp, Yuri. Ben, a once married and successful man, is now chronic alcoholic bent on drinking himself to death. Both Sera and Ben meet in Vegas and, in a sense, fall in love or at the very least simply enjoy each others company. But, before Sera can convince Ben to give up his notion of suicide by bottle, Ben dies. ...more
Bro_Pair أعرف
I've come to believe that, unknowingly, this is a bit of an evil book, that it is not the gritty depiction of the perils of alcohol that it is usually considered. The depiction of alcoholism, indeed, is the only thing that rings true in the book -- O'Brien has the details and pressures right, it seems like. But this book was written as a celebration of alcoholism and death and the author was so sick he didn't even realize it. Don't believe me? Find me a depiction of alcoholism in which an alcoho ...more
Jeff Yoak
Of all books I've abandoned, this is one of the ones I've put down most quickly. The writing style seemed so clumsy and pretentious to me that I simply couldn't endure it. I probably lasted the second half of how far I did because of a vague suspicion that there was quickly coming an "end quote" or some such mechanism because it was *so* bad that I thought I must have been being put on in some way. This literally is of a quality that if I was handed it by a high school student I could only respo ...more
Matt
Jul 29, 2011 Matt added it
I think what amazes me is the number of times I have referenced or quoted this book. It is the most remarkably sad, depressing story that is still a love story, in some strange world. Unlike most books, the movie does a good job with this one and is probably more depressing b/c you see what is going on. Only read if you like dark movies or books. But if you do, this is the book for you.
Sara Comuzzo
dopo aver visto il film ho cercato il libro. entrambi sono spettacolari. il libro è forse più personale, entra un poco di più nella psicologia dei personaggi pur restandone comunque al di fuori. Ben, un alcolizzato cronico, divorziato e solo a Los Angeles, scappa a Las Vegas con l'intento di uccidersi a forza di bere. gira con i suoi fedeli amici e compagni: un sacco di bottiglie di alcool. incontra Sera, prostituta che ha conosciuto molta violenza. tra i due nasce qualcosa: non si sa se amore, ...more
Walter
This is one of the better books I've read that dives into the soul of the characters. Yes, it's very dreadful, but the beauty in the langauge is what forced me to read this book several times
Peter Goutis
So beautifully written. So sad. This book flies by. The prose just rings. This book almost screams to be read out loud. Highly recommended.
Marta
Gripping book. I had difficulty not picturing Ben as Nicholas Cage in my mind, though. Would recommend this to anyone.
Matthew
Authors who see misery and abuse so clearly and truthfully must carry a heavy load.
J.t.r. Brown
Leaving Las Vegas is a beautiful, heart-breaking, atmospheric, seedy book about two unlikely people finding existential meaning in the most dire of circumstances. The characters are well-developed, unvarnished malcontents that are both relatable and revolting. Through the layer of gloom and misery, this is actually a strangely hopeful book. No one, no matter how damaged, is beyond the reach of a meaningful connection with another human. No one is beyond the reach of love. This book will haunt yo ...more
Karen San Diego
Leaving Las Vegas by John O'Brien.

I would've given this book five stars if it wasn't so damn short. It absolutely lacked graphic descriptions on the more appropriate scenes. There were events that should have been longer, and sometimes I thought John O'Brien was rushing the plot. The climax could have been more of a climax if it didn't lack vivid details. Although I got the universal reaction after reading it - depressed - that was generally because of the brutal story and because it was too sho
...more
Arow
I am not really sure where to start nor do I think I can do the story of Leaving Las Vegas justice with my review. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and hands down give it 5 shining stars. I realized after I finished the book that this was his first novel and that he committed suicide four years later. I do plan on reading his other works, which were all published posthumously. If Leaving Las Vegas is anything to go by I don’t think I will be disappointed.

We are brought into the world of Sera
...more
James Dixon
I just re-read this because a) I wanted to write a review, and b) I wondered if, perhaps as a result of having last read it at a certain time, a while ago, I was clinging to an impression of the book that had lingered and morphed in my mind, until it was possibly better, more profound, than the actual thing that had put it there!

Anyway, as it turns out, I liked it *more* this time.

Not only did I fall in love with the book again, but I fell in love with books again.

Because, make no mistake, thi
...more
Jarrodaf
Beautifully written, and full of precise abandon and methodical despair, "Leaving Las Vegas" is a book which might just erode your soul. The characters are written with unparalleled honesty; complicated people who don't betray the simplicity of their situations (or are they simple in complex situations?) The city of Las Vegas, with it's endless attractions, distractions, and infractions, serves as the perfect metaphor for the decay of the human spirit, poured strong and served on ice in this chi ...more
Frishawn Rasheed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jerry Peace
Forcefully overwritten, extravagantly overwrought, flamboyantly arrogant in its preening and self-abasement- a chilling spelunking into an alcoholic's mind. I can't figure out why Al's even in the book and most of Ben's dialogue is bogus-even if he could think those grammatically correct strings of sentences-without pauses and with pretentious vocabulary-, he could never have spoken them, in any recognizable way. Some may claim Ben's relationship with Sera fairy tale. Sadly, it is so true. Ben i ...more
Rebecca
I don't necessarily need to relate to--or like--characters to enjoy a book. I was surprised, then, to find myself relating to Sera and Ben in Leaving Las Vegas--and I am neither a prostitute nor an alcoholic. Reading their story, I felt like I understood them, and I empathized with them. This is a huge feat on the part of the author, and I'm still not sure how he managed to pull it off.

O'Brien seems like he would fit in well with the literary brat pack of the 1980s, and Jay McInerney (Bright Lig
...more
Colette
“There will always be dark characters, but her life is good; it is as she wishes it to be.” Do not read this book for leisure. Read it because you want to connect with the unconnected, the wanderers, the lifeless because those people exist and it is good to acquaint yourself with all those that exist in the world.
Amber Elizabeth
Such a deep, dark, disgusting, beautiful story filled with such raw truth and reality of addiction, hurt, damage and love. I was in tears from being able to feel such emotion from O'Brien's clear words of his truth.
Would definitely recommend this book, just maybe not to the faint hearted but those who know real darkness and passion.
Thankyou for sharing this part of you with me, Ben ♥
Ken
LEAVING LAS VEGAS is really an examination of two desperately lonely people who just happen to be an addict and a hooker. I thought that the character of Sera, the prostitute, was one of the fully most realized presentations of a call girl that I have ever read. You really get a sense of what it means to be 'in the life'. Ben's character was harder to understand because I can't remember reading a book about a person who drank quite this much. Yet, he was completely believable even though his add ...more
Marc Clapp
A depressing book. Not surprisingly the author committed suicide, still very brilliant and hard hitting prose. A quick and easy read if you can get past the direness of the situation
Gary Martin
After watching the movie so many times, the book was difficult to get into because the first third was all about sera. From my point of view, Ben is the focal point and once he entered the book it got interesting. Sometimes the book jumped scenes quickly and I had to adjust to where I was but overall I love this book better than any other non fiction I have read. I'm not into love stories but when it mixes with alcohol, depression, prostitution and suicidal thoughts then it makes the love story ...more
Dalleer
The love story in this book is naturally very unique in its' portrayal. I would definitely see that this is a very fitting storyline for the modern era, where all that Cinderella meets prince charming stuff has been thrown out of the window a long time ago and has become undoubtedly outdated.

So you know, the alternate tale of love portrayed in this book is simply amazing because it is so unique and has not been that much explored in literature, I believe. It is truly a sad story, and you kinda d
...more
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John O'Brien's first novel Leaving Las Vegas was published in 1990 and made into a film of the same name in 1995.

His other three works were published posthumously.

[Source]

John O'Brien was born in 1960 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to Los Angeles in 1982 with his then-wife Lisa. During his lifetime, he was a busboy, file clerk, and coffee roaster, but writing was his true calling. He com
...more
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“There will always be dark characters, but her life is good; it is as she wishes it to be.” 8 likes
“That which begins will also end.” 7 likes
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