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Finding Libbie: A Novel

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Poring over a dusty hatbox of photographs in her grandmother’s closet, Emily Prentice is shocked to discover her father was married to his high school sweetheart before meeting her mother.

In the summer of 1968, Jack and Libbie fall in love under the spell of their small town, untouched by the chaos of the late sixties. Though Libbie’s well-to-do parents disapprove of Jack’s humble family and his aspiration to become a mechanic, she marries Jack a year after they graduate high school. But soon their happiness crumbles as Libbie’s mental state unravels and she is drawn to alcohol and drugs. Despite his efforts to help her, Jack loses the woman he loves and is forced to move on with his life.

Now that Emily’s mother has passed away, Jack is alone again, and Emily grows obsessed with the beautiful woman who had given her father such joy. Determined to find Libbie, Emily pieces together the couple’s fragmented past. But is it too late for happy endings?

Audio CD

First published September 6, 2016

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About the author

Deanna Lynn Sletten

29 books534 followers
Deanna Lynn Sletten is the author of THE ONES WE LEAVE BEHIND, MISS ETTA, THE WOMEN OF GREAT HERON LAKE, MAGGIE'S TURN, THE LAKE HARRIET SERIES, and several other titles. She writes heartwarming women's fiction and romance novels with unforgettable characters. She has also written one middle-grade novel that takes you on the adventure of a lifetime.

Deanna has recently begun a new murder mystery series, The Rachel Emery Series which includes THE TRUTH ABOUT RACHEL and DEATH BECOMES YOU.

Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing on the lake in the summer.

Deanna loves hearing from her readers. Connect with her at:

Her blog: deannalynnsletten.com
Twitter: @DeannaLSletten
Facebook: facebook.com/DeannaLynnSletten

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 237 reviews
Profile Image for Tina.
510 reviews790 followers
September 14, 2016
Thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for granting me yet another great opportunity to read an Advanced Reader's copy. Another wonderful book!

Emily is intrigued with an old hat box she has found in her Grandmother's closet. She opens it and discovers pictures of her father and a young lady. Her Grandmother tells her it is his first wife. Then she begins to tell the story of a tragic love affair.

The first part of the book is about Jack and Libbie's life together. I quickly became enthralled in their love story.

The second part was Emma's quest to find Libbie and piece together the dangling fragments of the story. This was beautifully written and made me cry. I don't want to give away what it really was about but it was just heartbreaking to me.

I feel the author did a good job with tying up the story at the end...perhaps a little too sweetly but I think this story needed that.
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday is (reluctantly) on hiatus.
1,969 reviews2,039 followers
August 13, 2017
I have to admit that when I selected this book, I thought I was getting a family saga with a touch of mystery. WRONG. Instead, Finding Libbie is pure romance, not a genre I am particularly fond of and therefore something I only occasionally dip into.

But putting that aside, I found the writing rather dull. For a story about love, passion and mental illness, there was no fire, no passion in the writing. It was all rather flat and came across like a school essay written by a rather mediocre student.

Another minus for me was the predictability of the plot. It all unfolds like a fairy story, complete with the requisite curse by an evil fairy godmother, and so its path was pretty easily discerned.

I have read some really good romantic mysteries, but unfortunately, this wasn't one of them. With a little thought it could have been.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Finding Libbie by Deanna Lynn Sletten for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,036 reviews1,747 followers
October 5, 2016
Favorite Quotes:

Opening the bottle, she took out one pill and held it in the palm of her hand. It was such a tiny thing, yet it could relieve such heavy pain.

Her thoughts drifted to another room, another bed, another nightstand with a glass on it. That's when it hit her - she'd become her mother.

My Review:

Finding Libbie was a difficult and melancholy read for me. I struggled with the profound angst and duplicity occurring during this tale, as those tropes are just not among my favorite things. The story captured my attention from the beginning and I found the premise interesting and intriguing. Recall of good and bad memories of the time period began to surface. I had watched the draft lottery air on black and white television as a child. Similar to Jack and Libbie, I also became of age living in a small inbred town in the 70s, and it brought back - with unsettlingly clarity - memories of living through the era of inflation, Nixon, Viet Nam, protests, and the unfortunate trends of over medicating, Valium abuse, family secrets and covered up shame of mental instability.

I had enjoyed Libbie and Jack's courtship until Libbie began to unravel. I seriously floundered as the narrative became painfully dreary, tediously repetitive, and mired with Libbie's abysmal disintegration. I chafed at the injustice and frustration of poor Jack and was near despair when the story finally shifted back to the present timeline and the tension of my body began to ease. I was ever so grateful to have stayed the course as I was moved to tears and actually sobbing by the thoughtful and moving conclusion.

I wrap up my review to advise any angst loving readers bravely readying themselves to dive into the deep end of emotion - I warn you - it broke my heart, but it was worth the agony. Please prepare and gather your comfort foods, libation, and a box of tissues before cracking open page one.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
1,466 reviews236 followers
September 26, 2016
3.5 stars. While Finding Libbie starts in the present day, it soon moves make to the 1960's, to that time of the Vietnam war, when women mostly still stayed at home and didn't go to work. When some were bored and fell prey to drugs and alcohol.

Libbie comes from one of the most wealthy families in the town. Her family or at least her mother places her value on wealth to measure worth. Her sister was someone I really disliked, she was a real stirrer of the pot. Libbie's dad was good, if somewhat indulgent and with the penchant to look for a life of turning a blind eye to what was going on in his home.

Jack was a hard working young man, in love with Libbie but as their life progressed he could see all was not right with Libbie. (They married so young - as many did in those days.) So when Jack's daughter discovers that he was married before the marriage to her own mother she is very curious as to what happened to Libbie. As the reader I was too, what did she do in the intervening years? How did this fragile, anxious but sweet young woman fare?

It is Emily - Jack's daughter who when she learns of Libbie in her father's life spends time searching for her. It is a time for her too to re-evaluate how her own life is panning out and whether the man she is with, is right for her.

The story comes eventually to a heartwarming and moving conclusion. I was amused at how well all the threads of the story were detailed out in the epilogue. It is rare that that happens!

The story examines mental illness and the lack of understanding in the past that led to much suffering. It is a story of second chances and growing into a place of contentment and self fulfilment.
Profile Image for The Geeky Bibliophile.
462 reviews89 followers
March 7, 2017
The bulk of this novel tells the story of Jack and Libbie. The high school sweethearts seemed destined for a happy life together, but their happiness is short-lived. Planning the wedding was stressful enough for Libbie, but it doesn’t end after the wedding. Libbie continues to struggle with fears and feelings she can’t control, not to mention her mother’s mysterious “illness” and her older sister’s resentment at having to care for their mother. Libbie is determined to be perfect in every way, but her perception of failure and methods of dealing with her stress lead her, and Jack, down a road that can only end in disaster.

I didn’t want this story to end. Jack and Libbie felt so real to me, and when I read of how their marriage came to an end, it broke my heart. I already knew it was going to happen—it’s right there in the blurb—but it was still painful to read about. I thought about these characters constantly when I wasn’t reading, and I kept hoping that Libbie would be found. I wanted so badly for them to have the happy ending they were denied when they were young. I couldn’t stand waiting to find out if it would happen!

Finding Libbie is a beautifully written novel, and I enjoyed reading it very much. I have a feeling these characters are going to be fresh in my mind for quite some time. Sletten just earned a spot on my author radar with this one!

I received an advance review copy of this novel courtesy of Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Susan Peterson.
1,565 reviews252 followers
September 29, 2016
Poignant love story

I will start by simply saying that I loved this beautiful, heartbreaking, poignant book. I became emotionally invested in the characters and their story from the very first page. Emily is helping her grandmother, Bev, pack her things for a move into a new home when she stumbles upon a hatbox filled with old photographs of her father, Jack, and a young woman named Libbie. Libbie was her father's first wife...a fact that is news to Emily, who didn't know until that moment that her father had been married before. Emily's grandmother reveals Jack's and Libbie's story to Emily...a story filled with love, but also filled with unimaginable heartache. The characters in this story are memorable and truly touched my heart; characters who were passionate and loving, flawed and heartbroken. This story kept me up at night, as I felt compelled to find out what happens to the people on the pages of this book.
Profile Image for Linda Zagon.
1,340 reviews103 followers
July 30, 2016
I enjoyed "Finding Libbie" by Deanna Lynn Sletten. In my opinion this novel was an easy ,enjoyable summer read and, the characters were easy to relate to. In "Finding Libbie",I think that the author was also using the subject of finding oneself. The topic of mental illness, and the ignorance in the past and progress in the present is also evident. Is it possible to have a second chance for love? I like being able to hope for happily ever after. I would recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy.
Profile Image for Samantha March.
1,102 reviews284 followers
September 6, 2016
I received a review copy
Oh wow, what a read. It was wonderful to get the back story of Jack and Libbie, how they fell in love, their journey together, and what tore them apart. Then we get another story of Emily and how she finds out about Libbie, and gets determined to find Libbie and bring her father joy again. While that might sound like a lot to handle, this was written so well that it never felt like too much or too confusing. There are some serious subjects in here like mental health and addiction, but such a beautiful message within the pages as well. Really touching story.
Profile Image for Lorna.
225 reviews
July 15, 2018
What a silly book!!!!! Such a pity that when one reads reviews before buying a book it's never possible to know the age of the reviewer and his/her taste in the written word. One person wrote of this book that she was sorry to get to the end because she was not ready to finish her relationship with the wonderful characters. My opinion - the characters were ridiculously stupid and bland. Skimmed through it - should have just tossed it in chapter 2.
Profile Image for Deb.
1,224 reviews56 followers
October 5, 2016
Finding Libbie was tougher to read than I thought it would be--very good, but just hard to read emotionally. From the description, I thought more time would be spent with Emily looking for Libbie, her father's first wife--a big surprise to Emily who learns about it when helping her grandmother pack up her house. The bulk of the book is set in the mid-1960s-70s, and tells the love story of Libbie and Jack, how it all began and how it went terribly wrong when Libbie's mental health issues lead to alcoholism and prescription drug use and ultimately rip the couple apart. If addiction is a trigger for you, the book may be difficult to get through, but the journey is ultimately worth it. I found myself turning the pages--both wanting to know what exactly happened between the couple and hoping for some kind of positive outcome for Libbie--who although at times frustrating as an addict can be, is such a good soul that I wanted the best for her.

Wanting to make sure Libbie is OK and found happiness in her life is Emily's motivation for searching for her and since her father is lonely and still struggling after her mother's death, she thinks that it might be helpful for him as well. This generosity of spirit makes Emily a likable character. In fact the book is full of likable characters, with the exception of Libbie's family who went well beyond just trying to hide Libbie's issues--granted mental health issues were looked at very differently and misunderstood in that era, but they were just plain awful. The chapters with Emily's search for Libbie bracket the love story and I wished there was a bit more of the present day story and more to the epilogue. Still, it's a small criticism for a well-written book that takes a deeper and more heartrending look at love than your average romance. Finding Libbie is my first book by this author but based on this book, I will definitely be picking up more of her novels.

You can see my review and a recipe inspired by the book on my blog post here: http://kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/20...

Note: A review copy of "Finding Libbie" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Jessica.
343 reviews6 followers
September 13, 2016
I absolutely LOVED Finding Libbie. This is the first book of this authors that I have read, however I have a feeling it will most certainly NOT be my last! Finding Libbie is full of memories, sorrow, heartache, tears and love. This book is definitely one of the best books I have read this year!!

"It's just that Dad and Libbie's story is so sad, I feel a need to find out if Libbie is okay, whereever she is."

One of my favorite quotes from this book, it shows how caring Emily is and how much she truly cares for her father. This story is beautiful and is full of so many emotions. Emily learns so much about Jack and Libbie's story (Libbie is Jack's previous wife before he met Emily's mother & married her), and she just can't get their story out of her mind.

I thought Finding Libbie is truly a story about love and memories.

Thank you so much to the author and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Whether I get the book in exchange for my honest review or not, I will always post my honest feelings on the book.
Profile Image for Kayla.
773 reviews36 followers
September 6, 2016
How would you handle finding out that your father was previously married and you had no idea? That is just what happens when Emily helps her grandmother pack her house and finds pictures of her father with another woman. This was such a touching and emotional love story of Jack and Libbie that left you wanting and wishing for the best in the end. Talk about pulling your heart strings and moving you to tears! I really enjoyed this book!

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Diane.
747 reviews57 followers
September 10, 2016
I was intrigued by the premise of Deanna Lynn Sletten's novel, Finding Libbie. Emily is helping her grandmother pack up the family farm when she finds a hatbox filled with old photos of her father as young man. Her grandmother tells Emily that they are photos of Emily's father Jack with his first wife Libbie.

His first wife? Emily had no idea that her father was married before. Her own mother died last year, and Emily knew how much her parents loved each other and how devastated her father was when she died.

The story of Libbie, a beautiful young woman from one of the town's most prominent families, and Jack, the hardworking son of a cabinet maker who lived on a farm, is related through flashbacks. Jack was head-over-heels in love with Libbie when he swept her off her feet in high school.

Libbie's mother was openly hostile to Jack and Libbie's relationship, looking down on Jack as just a lowly mechanic, someone who couldn't possibly make her daughter happy. But Libbie was in love, and Jack's family treated with kindness and respect, unlike her mother and older sister Gwen.

We see how Jack wooed Libbie with romantic gestures, and was thrilled when she agreed to marry him, over her mother's strenuous objections. They lived in a little cottage on a small lake, and Jack worked as a mechanic. Life was good.

Libbie tried hard to be a good wife, keeping house and cooking meals she learned from Jack's mother, but she soon grew bored. She began to drink, and her moods swung wildly. She feared that she was becoming more like her mother, who increasingly began to spend her entire day in her dark bedroom, drunk and taking pills.

Jack was distraught; he did everything he could to help make life easier for Libbie, but when her father bought them a big house, Jack had to work more hours just to keep up with the bills, and so he spent more time away from home. The isolation that Libbie felt only made matters worse.

Eventually we discover what happened to Libbie and Jack, and Emily sets out to try and find Libbie. In her journey to find Libbie, Emily discovers some things about her own life. She has been living with and supporting her boyfriend while he goes to school, and she has to decide if this is the life she is willing to settle for.

I loved Finding Libbie, and it's not the genre of book I usually enjoy. I found myself so caught up in Jack and Libbie's story, and Emily's journey too. I read it in two sittings, and it even kept me on the treadmill longer, the sign of a truly good book.

Sletten handled the topic of addiction and mental illness with sensitivity, and I daresay that anyone who has experienced that for themselves will probably appreciate this beautiful story even more deeply. Since the story takes place in the late 1960's/early 1970's, people didn't understand as much about these issues as we do now, and so didn't know how to handle them.

Everything in this story- the well-drawn characters, the plot and the Minnesota setting during the Vietnam War-worked for me. I admit to tearing up at the end of the story, and if you liked Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, this book is for you. I liked it even better than The Notebook. I highly recommend Finding Libbie.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,679 reviews26 followers
July 30, 2016
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review:

What a roller coaster ride this book was! In a good way. Deanna Lynn Sletten is a new to me author and I'm glad I got to try her out.

The majority of this story centers on Jack and Libbie. They courted, fell in love, married, and lost each other in the late 60s through early 70s. Once you see it coming, and know what's coming, you can't help but hope your wrong. Jack is the most loving and caring hero. In the beginning Libbie is the perfect heroine. Rich and protected by her family, but not pretentious. She's willing to stand up to her family for love. It's beautiful.

The way the author wrote about Libbie's slow spiral down is so realistic and heartbreaking. Living in modern times, when we know so much more about certain afflictions (don't want to give spoilers here), it angered me the way Libbie's family and even doctors treated her. At the same time, I was beginning to hate Libbie for what was happening to Jack. I say that's a sign of a great story...the fact that I got so emotionally invested in these characters that I wanted to reach through the pages and help them.

Since this story is ultimately about Jack's daughter, Emily, finding out about Libbie and trying to find her, I will admit I wasn't quite sure how I felt about that. Jack and Libbie had been through so much, I wasn't sure it was a good idea to dredge up old feelings or that it would be good for either of them if Emily found Libbie. I needn't have worried about any of this. The last few chapters of the book, when we're back with Emily and her search, are written so beautifully and from the heart and in such a way that it makes sense. Although the ending could have gotten a bit more gritty and detailed, I think it was best that it didn't go there. We already had to deal with a lot of emotions during the telling of the Jack/Libbie story. Throwing too much more into it would have been overkill and turned this story into a depressing read instead of one that ended on hope and love.
Profile Image for Christy Wilson.
516 reviews5 followers
August 7, 2016
What a different read for me, that I did enjoy.

Finding Libbie starts with 30 year old Emily assisting her grandmother with items in her grandmother's home, preparing for a move. An old hatbox is found in the far reaches of a closet, with photos of Emily's father and a young woman named Libbie - her father's first wife, of whom she knew nothing about.

What follows is the story of how Jack and Libbie fell in love, starting in 1968.

Reading the synopsis, you get the feeling that the book is more about Emily; but it is not. This book is about Jack and Libbie and their struggles as a very young married couple: they deal with Libbie's mother who thinks Jack is not good enough for her daughter, finding their first home that they rent before moving into purchasing a home, attempting to have children - all the while, Libbie struggles with depression as well as discovering some hard truths about her own mother. And there is the center of the book: dealing with issues of mental health.

I simply could not stop reading this book, wanting to find out the truth about how this young couple who started out so much in love were unable to make things work. The story was told in such a way by the author that you had complete empathy for Libbie and her struggles, as well as for poor Jack as he struggles to keep his marriage together.

However, for me, the epilogue of the story was a bit abrupt. I almost would like to have seen it end at the point prior to the epilogue, and maybe been given a bit of a short story or novella that went into a bit more detail. That keeps me from giving the book a full four stars.

I am giving the book 3.5 stars but that does not mean this is not a GREAT read. It is at times heart breaking, and hard to deal with all the emotions involved. But I think the author had something to say about mental health issues, and I think she does so wonderfully.

ARC received in exchange for honest review.

Profile Image for Arlena.
3,162 reviews1 follower
October 1, 2016
Title: Finding Libbie
Author: Deanna Lynn Sletten
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five

"Finding Libbie" by Deanna Lynn Sletten

My Thoughts....

"Finding Libbie was a well written story [part 1 and part 2] that will keep your attention all the way to the end. I liked the shift of the read staring 'at present day...shifting to the late 60's, to Jack and Libbie's story...and then back to the present day.'

What would you do or think if you found out that your father was previously married and you had no idea of this? This was a story also about 'mental illness,' which presented quite a roller coaster ride and even to having a second chance at love. Libbie was Jack's previous wife before he met Emily's mother & married her.

The reader will be captivated in finding out the truth about this young couple [Libbie and Jack's] struggles in this very emotional love story. Be ready for quite a heartbreaking read full of 'memories, sorrow, heartache, and love.' This was definitely a tear grabber. Now, why was that? Why couldn't Emily get this story out of her mind..."It's just that dad and Libbie's story is so sad, I feel a need to find out if Libbie is okay, wherever she is.' This is where I say you will have to pick this read up to see how this author will bring it all out to the reader. This is definitely a good love story that will break your heart as it deals with addictions and mental illness with some 'well drawn characters, in a Minnesota setting during the Vietnam War.' This read definitely left me saying Wow what a good read!

ARC Provided by the Publisher and NetGalley.

Profile Image for Kari.
3,615 reviews86 followers
September 19, 2016
Finding Libbie is a compelling and heartbreaking book that also manages to leave you with a feeling of hope in the end. I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would. I'll admit that it was slow for me to start, but I ended up being drawn into the tragic love story of Jack and Libbie. Emily finds out that her father was married before he married her mother. After hearing their story from her grandmother, she sets out to try to find Libbie.

As I said, I ended up really liking this one. It's not an easy read because it's so sad at times. I had to keep reminding myself that the majority of the tale takes place in the 60s and 70s when women's mental health was often swept under the rug or largely misdiagnosed. It would be a much different story if Jack and Libbie's love story took place in present time I wanted to scream at Libbie's family throughout the story. Through her quest to find Libbie, Emily also figures out what she wants for her life. I liked that part of the book as well.

My only wish for this book would have been to see more interaction between two of the characters toward the end. It would have rounded out the story even more for me. I do recommend this one. It will break your heart and make you smile at the same time.
Profile Image for Bewaji.
1,305 reviews3 followers
September 6, 2016
Wow!!! Simply wow! Am in awe of this author for wringing out my heart with this story. This is actually the love story of Jack and Libbie. They loved and lost 30 years prior, Jack moved on, but Libbie drowned in her sickness and despair. It took a chance encounter with some old pictures and buried memory for Jack's daughter to make it her mission to find Libbie.

She did find Libbie. Now Jack is a widower. Will these two still connect? *Spoiler alert*. They did, but I was still heartbroken. Yes, I was. My throat literarily closed up. I cried like a baby, with running nose, blabbing. I had to hide in my bedroom before the DH call the people in white jackets to come take me away. Jeez, I don't know what to write again. This is one of the best novels I have ever read. Truly. I could not put it down.
*ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley for my unbiased review*
Profile Image for Christine Moore.
802 reviews26 followers
October 2, 2016
Thank you so very much to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book. I really enjoyed this book. It was a story of love, heartbreak, finding who you truly are and what you want in life. Emily is helping her Grandmom pack up her house and finds a hatbox of old photos of her Dad. She finds out her Dad was married before to a woman named Libbie. Emily's Mom has recently passed so she finds out everything she can about Libbie even trying to track her down. The majority of the book is about Jack and Libbie's love story. It is a wonderful love story that is so incredibly heart breaking. I could not put this book down and needed to keep reading. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a wonderful love story that keeps you wanting to read more and more.
463 reviews3 followers
August 26, 2016
This book has a good storyline. I was glad that even though it dealt with two-three generations, the story did not keep going back and forth between the generations. That made it much easier to follow the characters. On several levels it is a love story but the book is also about addictions and mental illness. It is well written and the characters are believable. I will recommend it to family and friends. Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union for allowing me to read an advanced copy for my honest review.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
662 reviews28 followers
September 7, 2016
Sweet and loving

I devoured this story about Libbie. Ms. Sletten writes with care as she tells her stories. Finding Libbie is a sweet, clean story with a few unforgettable characters.

I recommend this story, and I recommend Ms. Sletten as an author and a storyteller.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,123 reviews30.2k followers
November 7, 2016
This is a unique love story that will warm your heart! Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. I really enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Liza Jane.
68 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2017
I received this book from NetGalley and Union Lake Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

An honest, bittersweet story that keeps you on the edge as you bear witness to the destructive path that mental illness can carve into a family’s past, present and future. Finding Libbie, by Deanna Lynn Sletten, is emotional and captivating.

Jack Prentice loved Libbie for what felt like his entire life. When he married his dream girl he had no idea that their dream would quickly turn into a nightmare. He doesn’t understand what is happening to Libbie and can only stand by helplessly as she travels down a road he can’t drive. The guilt is eating him alive. He is Libbie’s husband, he promised her father that he would love and protect her but how can he protect her from herself?

Libbie is your typical young beauty in a small town. She’s smart, fearless and falls for Jack after the perfect summer of friends, sun and love. It isn’t until she’s planning her wedding and facing the possibility that Jack could be drafted, that she has her first battle with depression. She doesn’t know it at the time, of course. What experience does she have with it? It’s just her nerves, and her doctor has given her valium to help with her “sensitive nature.” Once she knows Jack is safe and the wedding is over then she’ll feel better but what if she doesn’t?

By far, one of the most beautiful books I’ve read. Maybe it’s due to my personal experiences with mental illness but I felt Jack’s helplessness as I read further and further into the book. Libbie’s symptoms are so classic in modern times that it makes you anxious, then angry that she isn’t being treated for mental illness. My heart hurt just as bad for Libbie, what it must be like to have no control over your own mind.

What was happening to them was so very sad yet inevitable, given the times. Two young people trying to build a life with neither able to prevent the stop or prevent the illness that will test and possibly destroy them.

As odd as it sounds, I really enjoyed reading this book. The author was objective throughout and never made you feel like you were choosing sides. It wasn’t Jack against Libbie, it was Jack and Libbie against the unknown. The gritty nature of mental illness is very real and Deanna wrote it very true to life. Mental illness doesn’t just effect the person dealing with it, it affects everyone around that person.

I felt raw in the days after I finished the novel. It definitely hit home for me but not in a negative way. It helped to remind me that mental illness is so common. Yet, despite how common it is, we still have such a stigma and taboo surrounding illness of the mind. It doesn’t really feel like we’ve made progress in that aspect.

This is not a light read by any means. It will not be a book you can set down. I highly recommend you read it yet at the same time offering warning. It can be a trigger for many but I will tell you that it will also teach you and help to open your mind to the reality of mental illness.
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,882 reviews196 followers
September 11, 2016
Originally published at Reading Reality

This story is a heartbreaker. Be sure you have a box of tissues handy whenever you dive into this marvelous story. Personally, I needed a hug every couple of chapters. This story gets you right in the feels.

In part, that’s because the love story related in this novel is heartwrenchingly bittersweet. As we look back on it through the lens of the storyteller, we know that it is going to end in tragedy. What we experience as the story is told is the depth of that tragedy. They should have had a happy ending. Instead, we see bright hope turn to despair on a trajectory that is all-too-easy to anticipate, but was impossible to stop.

The other aspects that will make 21st century readers weep, and scream in frustration, is the way that the treatment of women’s health and mental health, particularly at the intersection of the two, made what was already a bad situation much, much worse than it needed to be. And while we like to believe that things have changed, they haven’t as much as we hope.

This story works in framing story type of narrative. Emily is helping her grandmother clean out the old family house in preparation for moving to a townhouse in the center of town. This is a labor of love for both women, but the process reveals more of the past than Emily knew existed.

A long-forgotten box of photographs reveals a piece of Emily’s father’s past that she never knew, but that Bev witnessed in all of its bright hope and dark ending. Before he married her now-deceased mother, Jack Prentice was married to his high school sweetheart, Libbie Wilkens. The box of photos is all that is left of their tragic marriage.

The bulk of the book is Bev telling Emily the story of her dad’s first marriage. Libbie was the daughter of one of the town’s richest families. She was bright and beautiful and defied her parents’ expectations to marry hard-working Jack Prentice. But she lost herself along the way to a neverending cycle of prescription drugs, alcohol, and increasingly frequent stays in rehab to dry out.

Just like her mother.

In the end, they break. We see it coming all along the way, and we want to reach into the book and shake some sense into nearly everyone. But we have more perspective on what is wrong with Libbie than her contemporaries do. This story takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And that past is another country.

Everyone believes that Libbie is just “sensitive”, like her mother. And that it is still Jack’s job to take care of her and protect her from anything that might stress her or upset her. The possibility that it is that protection that is part of the problem never occurs to people. She is just seen as inherently weaker because she is female. She’s not allowed to work because that might cause her more stress.

Instead, doctors prescribe more and more pills to help her. Not all of them know what other doctors are prescribing, but there is also a definite sense that because she is female her problems are all just “emotional” and pills should fix her right up. There’s never a sense that anyone believes there might be underlying concerns that need to be diagnosed.

And no one in her family wants to even think about the possibility that the stigma of mental illness might be attached to one of “them”. While Jack doesn’t feel that way, he is relatively young and completely overwhelmed. Between taking care of Libbie and working two and three jobs to keep them financially afloat, he is in over his head every second.

In the end, everything goes too far, and their brief marriage is over.

In the present, Emily is left with a dilemma. Multiple dilemmas. She feels deeply for Libbie, and wonders what happened to the bright young woman who was disappeared by her family into some unknown but probably institutionalized future. She’s worried about her widowed father, who has retreated into increasing amounts of work to cope with his grief.

So she decides to find Libbie. In the unstated hope that searching for her happy ending, or at least some closure, will provide Emily with the perspective to deal with the unresolved issues in her own life.

Escape Rating A-: The blurb essentially gives away the story, but the book is absolutely compelling, even though the reader knows the historical part of the story before it begins. This is one of those books where even though you know the what, the how of it will keep you enthralled until the very end.

The way that Libbie is treated is guaranteed to make 21st century readers gnash their teeth in frustration. But it feels very true to the time period. The world of women’s opportunities was changing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it had not changed completely (if it ever has). Libbie is growing up in what Betty Friedan described in The Feminine Mystique as “quiet desperation”. She was supposed to be decorative and not functional, except within the sphere of the home. And it wasn’t going to be enough, with or without her family’s history of undiagnosed mental illness. Added to her mental health issues, she was doomed.

And when the story returns to the open-ended present, it still keeps you turning pages. Emily’s search gets under your skin. She may be using her search for Libbie as a way of distancing herself from her own issues, but it feels like it’s the scary but right thing to do.

Libbie could be dead. She could be happily remarried. She could be institutionalized. She could still be some kind of addict. She could still be angry at Emily’s father. And if Emily finds Libbie, Jack may not be ready or willing to revisit a past that caused him so much pain.

But in finding Libbie, Emily surprisingly finds herself. And it’s marvelous.
106 reviews
February 19, 2021
I absolutely love this book. The journey that jack and Libbie make Is unbelievable And the difference or diagnosis makes.
Profile Image for Trish.
512 reviews
October 7, 2016
Finding Libbie tells such a moving story. It begins with Emily helping her grandmother to clean out her farm house before she moves. Emily finds an old hat box of letters and photos, and realizes her father was married as a young man, before he met her mother.

The first part of the book tells the story of Emily's father, Jack, and his first love Libbie. They were high school sweethearts in 1968, although she came from a prominent family and he was from a strong working class family. The book beautifully captures small town life in the 1960's, with details like an outdoor movie on a big screen, Dairy Queen, a roller rink, an A&W drive in, a Fourth of July carnival.

Jack and Libbie are both likable, sympathetic characters and I really enjoyed reading about their early romance. For this reason, I found it really hard to read about Libbie's unhappiness and addiction.

The second part of the book involves Emily's search for Libbie. As I read along, I really hoped for happiness for these characters that I came to care for in Finding Libbie. I liked Emily's look into the past and search for Libbie.

This is a well written, heartwarming, emotionally stirring book. I recommend it to fans of women's fiction, small town fiction, and family stories.
139 reviews
February 19, 2017
3.5 Fernie, February 2017

Very fast and easy read. While set in entirely different era, amazingly this book's plot was remarkably quite similar to the book I had just finished, the Secret Wife ... I enjoyed the beginning of the book, through the courtship of Jack and Libbie, however when Libbie goes into her spiral - I found that this part of the book was somewhat tedious, boring and quite repetitive. Once the story went back to current day, I started to enjoy the book again, and almost was some what close to tears in some parts.

The story starts with Emily helping her grandmother pack up and downsize from the old family farmhouse where Jack, and his younger sister and brother grew up, to move to a small town house now that her grandfather has passed away. As they are packing up they come across an old Hatbox that is full of old photos, some of which have been torn up. Emily is shocked to learn that her father had been married previously to his high school sweetheart, prior to his marriage to her mother (now deceased from breast cancer of 2 years).

On learning about her father, Jack having been previously married to Libbie - the book then turns back and starts with when Jack, in Grade 11 agrees to volunteer to help with decorating for the school prom, because his major crush, Libbie is the prom organiser. The story follows Jack's, the son of farmers, absolute love for Libbie, who is the daughter of an extremely wealthy business man / furniture store chain owner. Jack is not deemed to be good enough for their daughter, but despite this, Jack, un-flaunted, contintues to pursue Libbie. The night of their graduating Prom, he proposes and she agrees, and they marry a year later after he has finished his 1 year of study to be a car mechanic.

They move into a very small house. Just weeks before the wedding, Libbie is flustered and really anxious about the wedding, and her sister ends up giving her some Valium to help with her nerves. Thus starts the long spiral of Libbie taking Valium, then wine and becomes a secret drug abused alcoholic. Not being able to cope with the boredom of being a stay at home housewife, later a part time librarian, or other fears (e.g. the draft and threat of Jack being going to Vietnam). She totals her car, and is put in short term care. Notwithstanding the constant ups and downs of Libbie's issues with drugs and alcohol and her massive mood swings from being up and then totally depressed, it is clear that Jack is still completely smitten and in love with Libbie and continues to help and stand behind her.

Until finally one day, Libbie completely loses control in a complete and utter rage, she tears up all their photos and tells Jack she hates him. He leaves her to go have a drink with his best friend Larry, hoping that she will have calmed down by the time he returns, howevever when he does return, she had been yelling, screaming and throwing so many things that the neighbours had called the police, who in turn had called Libbie's sister and father. On Jack's return, they tell Jack to leave, that Libbie wants nothing to do with him ever again. Jack continues to try and see Libbie, ending up in jail ... and after which the marriage is ended.

Years later, he marries his best friend's baby sister.

The book then comes back to present day. After learning the story of Libbie, Emily becomes determined to find her, and see if she's OK. She finds her old friends, Carol, Larry, and others, all of whom lost touch with her after she had gone into her spiral. Eventually, Emily finds her in an assisted living home. She comes to meet her and learns that in the 5 years that she has been there, Libbie has never once had a visitor - always hoping, but never. She later learns that after years and years and years of treatment for valium, drugs and alcohol, it is only 10 years ago that they finally properly diagnosed her, with bipolar. Now properly treated, and provided she takes her meds, she has been fine. Carol, Bev (Jack's mother) and her other friends come to see her. Emily then asks her father to go. Finally they are reunited ... and marry for 10 years before Jack passes away.

While quite soppy, and in some places a bit monotonous - I did enjoy the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,396 reviews35 followers
September 10, 2016
Finding Libbie is a poignant tale of love found, love lost, heartache, and a trail of memories that will captivate your heart and soul. The author weaves a beautiful and dramatic tale that follows Jack and Libbie's love story.

The story opens up with Emily Prentice discovering a hatbox of photographs of her father Jack with a young woman named Libbie. Unbeknownst to Emily, Jack and Libbie had been high school sweethearts who got married in 1968, but their short-lived marriage only lasted until the early 1970s. This touching love story takes the reader along on Jack and Libbie's emotional memory woven journey, it will draw you into their lives and will pull at your heartstrings. The author's descriptive writing style is phenomenal, she simply captivates your imagination and engages you to come along on the emotional roller coaster ride that is Jack and Libbie's love story, and then she brings you back to the present when Emily embarks on a search to find Libbie.

The author has created an intriguing cast of characters who are realistic and complex people that the reader can relate to. Their engaging personalities grab a hold of you with dialogues and interactions that leap off the pages. The emotions and passion between Jack and Libbie are palpable, you can't help but feel for them as they deal with personal demons and relationship issues. Libbie's struggle with mental illness and addiction is simply heart wrenching especially for Jack who loves her so much, author Deanna Lynn Sletten sure knows how to draw out the emotions from her readers! This emotionally charged story is one that everyone who believes in love should read, it is a powerfully compelling story that will leave you wanting more. I could easily see this novel as a Lifetime Channel movie.

Finding Libbie is a beautiful story of a couple's lost love through old memories and a painful past brought to the surface by a loving daughter who wants to help her father find love and happiness again. This love story is one for the ages, it will resonate with you long after the last word has been read.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chic Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Profile Image for Andrea Guy.
1,464 reviews61 followers
September 28, 2016
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Review: I'm totally obsessed with family stories that involve secrets.The main bulk of the story is set in the decade that I wish I had grown up in, the 60s.

This story is an emotional one, which is another thing that I tend to gravitate to when it comes to books. I like stories that pull me in like that. If a book can make me laugh, feel anxious or cry then I know it is a good read.

Jack and Libbie's relationship will draw you in like that. The were high school sweethearts from different social backgrounds. That is something that causes problems between the two, but there's more to it than that. Libbie's mental health is not good. and soon she gets mired in alcohol and drugs.

I felt terrible for both characters as Libbie's addiction took control of her, especially since no one seemed to really care about her actual health, except for Jack and he was getting no help where it was needed.

By the end of Jack and Libbie's story my heart had broken for both of them. Jack was so idealistic and so in love.

This story seems to remind us that money doesn't make a loving family. If you didn't want to hit every member of Libbie's family than you are totally unfeeling.

The second part of the story is Jack's daughter Emily and her quest to find the woman that her father married before her mother. It was sad, because these two were meant for each other. It definitely is a storybook romance that went terribly wrong.

I wanted more of Emily's story. Her story was a little too short, wrapping things up quickly.

I liked the Emily wanted to find Libbie for her father. This could have been something that could have gone terribly wrong and brought up old hurts but it works well. It also shows what a good person Emily was. I know I probably wouldn't find someone my father loved before my mother.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, but if you do take the chance and read it, have some Kleenex handy, because you'll need them.
Profile Image for Brenda  Ashworth Barry.
41 reviews10 followers
March 10, 2017
Finding Libby was a story that had so much meaning. Showing that just because you come from money, doesn't make up for love. Jack was a down to earth farm boy that was rich in so many ways. What he went through in this story went on a little too long. My heart was breaking for him. What was clear is Libby had emotional issues and a mother who loved her, but had more than just emotional issues. The power of addiction was shown strong in this book. As much love as there is sometimes. Addiction and mental illness can take a toll on a family. This story was done in a way that you could feel the pain. Watching what Libby had to go through with her mother and sister made me want to kidnap her from that family. No wonder she loved the farm and Jacks mom and dad so very much.

The one thing that confused me, is why Libby's dad changed the way he did. He went from being a soft spoken man and wanting Jack to take care of Libby, to a man that did an awful thing. I don't want to give it away so I'll just say, it didn't seem to fit the man he had been. Maybe he just knew that his daughter had too many problems to stay married. The truth is, I couldn't put the book down and stayed up past my bedtime to read it. The story pulled me in from the very beginning. I was so happy at the ending and how things unfolded. I loved Jack's daughter and I was glad she stuck to her guns regarding her own relationship. This is just a really good story with a cast of characters you will fall in love with. The end of the book had me in tears. I loved this story. It was not in any kind of box, that was for sure.
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