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The Year I Left

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Carin Frost doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. A confident businesswoman, wife, and mother, she begins to resent everything about her life. Nothing makes sense. Nothing makes her feel. Maybe it’s the recent loss of her mother in a tragic accident. Or maybe she’s just losing her mind.

Enter Matias Torres. As their new business partnership thrives, so does their friendship—and his interest in her. Carin is determined to keep her distance, until a work assignment sends them to Southeast Asia where a storm is brewing on the island. In the midst of the chaos, Matias asks her to do something unimaginable, exhilarating, BOLD. Carin knows the consequences could be dire, but it may be the only way to save herself.

An honest look at love and marriage and the frailties of the human heart, this is a story of a woman’s loss of self and purpose and the journey she takes to find her way back.

284 pages, Paperback

First published July 30, 2019

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About the author

Christine Brae

7 books950 followers
Christine Brae, is a full time career woman who thought she could write a book about her life and then run away as far as possible from it. She never imagined that her words would touch the hearts of so many women with the same story to tell. Christine is the author of six (6) books and the recipient of literary awards.

Christine Brae also publishes under her real name, Anna Gomez. Her latest project, Moments Like This, is the first in a series of five books, co-authored and co-produced for film and tv, with actor, Kristoffer Polaha.

She is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo Helin Literary Management.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 114 reviews
Profile Image for Ashley.
482 reviews214 followers
August 20, 2019
Absolutely loved every word. ❤️

Available today!!

Christine Brae's lyrical writing spoke to my heart three years ago for the first time and continues to evoke soul-stirring emotions with her upcoming release, The Year I Left, today. Christine is leaving us with the legacy of six beautiful books to her name as she moves forward in life - this stunning story will be the final chapter in published books from Brae. Don't fret, friends, she's going out with a bang. Even if the last book is your first read by Brae, you won't want to miss out.

I'm thrilled to say The Year I Left has surpassed In This Life as my favorite Christine Brae novel. While In This Life will always be high on my shelf of favorite books of all-time, somehow The Year I Left spoke to me on a deeper level. There's something wonderful about a book that makes one able to reflect upon their own life and feel a sense of kinship with the text. While many themes are exhibited in this novel, the pillars in my mind are of timing, the choices we make, and self-love.

"It's never the wrong time. Things happen and you make it work. You fit it in your timeline. You don't get to choose where or when."

I think many times in life, we use timing as an excuse to avoid making difficult decisions. Comfort is the easiest choice, but it doesn't mean it's the best choice. Carin's journey takes readers through the darkest times we face as wives, mothers, and women in general. She searches her soul with honesty and courage. While we might not agree with every choice she makes, I think it's important to remember this fictional story is taking us to a place many of us may have daydreamed about ourselves. Ultimately, The Year I Left communicates one point incredibly clearly - this one life we have been given is ours for the living. Oftentimes, we get caught in a cycle of living for others and lose ourselves. Sometimes the most selfish act is essential for our personal survival.

"Oftentimes, the choices you make for yourself will hurt someone else."

Though this romantic story will have you all up in your feelings, Carin's friendship with Diana was one of the highlights of this novel for me. I absolutely loved watching their relationship grow and experiencing how quickly some friendships are able to form. Diana felt honest and easy to be around, like someone I wish I knew in real life! The parallels between the lives of these two friends made me reflect on just how similar my own story was to theirs. Love often leads us on journies we never expect to take, making us do things we could never fathom we'd have the guts to do.

"We were two kindred souls who in many ways were hungry for the gift of friendship."

Upon finishing this book, I felt such an immense sense of peace. I was pleased with the ending and the direction the characters were going, the romance was off the charts, and the story gave me the beneficial life lessons I've come to expect from Christine's writing. This is the type of book that left me full to the brim with feelings and inadequate words to express them. Ultimately, I think this book will be a wake-up call for some readers and relatable to women everywhere. Do yourself a favor and read The Year I Left.

Reviewed on: Ashes Books & Bobs.
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,008 reviews1,736 followers
August 22, 2019
Favorite Quotes:

That kiss destroyed me, gave me life, made me hopeful and sad at the same time.

I got lost somehow. I don’t know when. I don’t know where… I need to find myself… And then I’ll look for you.

I want you to know that my life only began when I met you, that I’d been waiting all my life for you and that finding you, loving you, has given me purpose, made me whole.

My Review:

This was not an easy read. It was, however, remarkably realistic in how frustrating and exasperating it can be for family and friends of an emotionally or mentally ill individual who will not seek or accept appropriate treatment or assistance, which is bad enough in itself, but then to suddenly disappear. Heartbreaking! This happens more often than most people realize or want to contemplate, although most people’s stories are not as compelling or entertaining as this one.

Carin was wealthy, successful, beautiful, and had a lovely family and lavish home. Yet she felt stagnant, numb, and dissatisfied by her life and deeply envied her free-spirited friend who avoided commitments and blew with the wind. She lived for her work while her family life and personal responsibilities were falling into chaos from avoidance, neglect, and disinterest. She was also zoning out with thoughts of suicide and acts of self-harm and had developed an inexplicable resentment for her kind and loving husband. When the opportunity arose to disappear, she took it.

I had a difficult time caring for Carin, as she initially appeared extremely self-involved and whiny. I was unsympathetic and sighing with displeasure while considering a DNF until I read a bit further and realized she was grieving and clinically depressed. I had found myself growing increasing antagonized and annoyed with Carin, yet I couldn’t put my Kindle down and walk away. Ms. Brae’s emotive and well-nuanced storytelling put an itch in my brain and I needed to see it through. I was thankful for staying the course, as the ending proved satisfying (although she really made me work for it) and Carin’s romantic island adventures with the tasty Matias were quite the steamy diversion as well as a sweet delight for the daydreaming romantic in me. Sigh, I was totally enamored and besotted with the scrumptious Matias.
272 reviews82 followers
September 23, 2019
The author did a great job depicting a character who is untethered and feeling lost. Her affliction unfolds throughout the story with a vulnerability that keeps you engaged until the very end.
Profile Image for Sandra Hoover.
1,150 reviews180 followers
August 16, 2019
The Year I Left is a story for anyone who's ever felt lost and adrift in a life that no longer gives them what they need to thrive and grow and feel alive. A story for anyone who's ever felt the need for something more out of life. A story for anyone who's ever yearned for something they can't define or grasp but know they need like their next breath. It would be easy to say this is a story for women . . . and I suppose it is. But truthfully, I think it applies to both men and women. It's a story for anyone who's ever asked themselves the question: Is it ever okay to put your own personal needs first . . . especially if they come at the expense of loved ones?

Carin Frost is a wife, mother, and successful career woman who appears to have it all - fabulous home, business, and lifestyle, gorgeous devoted husband and child. So why is she so unhappy and unsatisfied with her life? Carin is sleep-walking through life, going through the motions and playing her expected role while silently screaming for help. Until she meets her new business partner Mattias Torres - a man who gives her a taste of the life she can have if she's willing to give it and him a chance. A co-business trip to Southeast Asia results in a life or death situation where a split-second joint decision drastically changes both their lives. For the first time in forever, Carin feels alive. But can she live with the consequences of her actions?

This is my first book by Christine Brae, and I'm highly motivated to seek out more. Her lyrical, descriptive writing style enhances this emotionally charged story that I think will hit close to home for many. Brae tackles some tough issues like depression, responsibility to others as well as to ones self, resentment, guilt, and redemption - all part of life choices and lessons. Told in a unique voice that reads like a journal written by Carin, The Year I Left conveys a range of emotions from deep sadness to giddy joy and everything in between. The author delivers some life lessons through Carin and Mattias's story with reminders that you can't continuously live your life for everyone else at the expense of your own happiness; however, for every action, there is a reaction that includes living with the consequences. Every individual must decide if true personal happiness is worth any cost. What some will view as a selfish choice may feel like a lifeline to others. The Year I Left is a poignant, heartfelt romance that touched this reader's heart and soul, still resonating within me days after I read the final page. I'll add here (without spoilers) that I loved the way the author chose to end this story, leaving readers a little leeway to interpret the ending. This is a fantastic read for anyone who's ever wondered if they're truly living life to the fullest!

*With special thanks to Vesuvian Books for an arc of this book!
**Review & Blog Tour posting coming 8/18/19 on Cross My Heart Reviews
Profile Image for Mary Jackson _TheMaryReader.
1,040 reviews121 followers
April 6, 2020
I was not so sure about this book for a while but it ended up being a good one. I read it really fast, I was so worried about the outcome. I had to know if Brae was going to tie up the loose ends with a bow are leave a mess.
I want you to grab a copy of this and you can thank me later.
Profile Image for Karren  Sandercock .
715 reviews132 followers
May 25, 2022
Carin Frost is married to Jack and they have a ten year old son Charlie. She’s a successful business woman and since her mother died in a tragic accident crossing the road she’s been struggling. Carin feels numb, she goes to work, looks after Charlie and she doesn’t feel like talking to Jack. The man she was once head over heels in love with, she now goes out of her way to avoid him and it’s a bad sign.

Matias Torres is from Barcelona, he starts working as a partner at Carin’s company, she finds him interesting and they have a lot in common. Carin notices how good-looking he is, she feels attracted to him and Matias is putting out vibes that he feels the same about her. They travel to Southeast Asia for a work, when an earthquake hits the island and Matias comes up with a crazy idea.

Carin is at a cross roads, she feels like she has lost herself, she’s floundering in a world of feeling worthless and she can’t cope with her grief. She goes along with Matias’s plan, her mind is playing tricks on her and has she made a big mistake?

I received a copy of The Year I Left by Christine Brae from NetGalley and Vesuvian Books in exchange for an honest review. It’s a story about Carin not realizing she’s jugging too many things, her relationships, marriage, work, and her mental health suffers because of this and she should have got professional help when her mother died. A thought provoking read, it makes you think about the pressure many women are under these days and three and a half stars from me.
Profile Image for Patty Smith.
209 reviews71 followers
August 31, 2019
Many thanks to NetGalley, Vesuvian Books and Christine Brae for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review of The Year I Left. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy.

Carin is a successful business woman who is married to a good guy with a great kid. But, lately, a feeling of ennui has set over her whole life. She doesn’t know what has come over her until Matias walks into her life. As they begin to work together, Carin can’t concentrate on her job. They work so well together but gosh why did he have to be so nice and oh so handsome. As their professional relationship progresses, so does their attraction to one another. Carin refuses to act on, until, one day, they find themselves stranded on an island. The world believes they are dead. Should she take this time for herself, to explore how she feels? Can she stay and make a life with Matias? Or are they living on borrowed time?

Uch!! No, no, no. What is going on? I get that every married woman/mother dreams of taking off from her life and living on an island with some hot guy who worships her at some point in a long marriage. Especially one that is loaded and can fix shit. I mean, this guy is perfect. He wants nothing to do but talk about his feelings and make love to Carin every day forever. Yes, sign me up. When does my plane crash? And can you please make it in Hawaii.

I can’t suspend my belief for books like this. No matter how I try, I just can’t. She’s going to abandon her son to find herself? I just don’t believe that is what mother’s do. And I’ll say it again, if you aren’t happy in your marriage, LEAVE! She has all the options to do so. She is financially independent, so she can provide for herself and her son. Her husband is wonderful, just boring to her. He looks after their son all the time and is great with him. The husband is so concerned that his wife isn’t happy. JEEZ!! How many good guys does this girl get?

I can’t relate to women, who have everything, then whine and complain like spoiled brats. I think it is extremely selfish to dump your life, pretend to your husband and CHILD that you are dead, so you can frolic on the beach with some hot dude! I mean that is harsh. Why can’t she deal with her problems like an adult. Do the hard work of being alone, figure out what you want, then go after said hot guy.

I was looking forward to reading a book about “an honest look at love and marriage and the frailties of the human heart, this is a story of a woman’s loss of self and purpose and the journey she takes to find her way back.” I wanted to hear about the inside of a marriage. What to do when you want more out of life. When personally you feel lost. Like, somehow the life you built wasn’t really the life you wanted. Carin and Matias also lied to everyone on the island. They were playing house. They weren’t really married and didn’t deal with things that regular married people did. It was all fantasy.

I think I would have accepted the situation if she had left honestly. Told her husband “ I need a year to get away and find myself and I might sleep with someone, so you can too” Then the family knows what’s going on. Your kid won’t need loads of therapy. I just can’t accept the premise. I guess I have such a visceral reaction to this because it is society selling another fantasy to women. First it is the fairy tales, then it is the romance novels and rom-com movies, and now this fantasy.

I like the writing style. The whole book reads like a journal, or letter, looking back on the whole experience. So you have Carin, walking back through her memories and analyzing them as she describes what is happening. I just can’t relate to these characters. It’s a pass for me.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,798 reviews
August 25, 2019
The Year I Left is my first book by this author. I would categorize it as a combination between Women's Fiction and romance.

The book is divided into three parts. The main narrator is 35 year old Carin (1st person POV). She is married to Jack and has a 10 year old son Charlie.

Carin is a workaholic. But she is extremely unhappy. She can't stand being at home. She doesn't feel anything anymore.

I really was not sure where this book was headed. I got that Carin was depressed and unable to handle her life. But I found some of her actions shocking.

This rating was difficult for me. This was a quick read. It was interesting. But the two main characters were not very likable to me. I don't usually base my ratings on whether I liked what the characters did. But in this case it was hard for me to differentiate between what the characters did and how I felt about the book overall.

This book is Carin's journey to try to get her life back. There is romance. The book is about friendship. It shows one woman's struggles and really delves into what it can be like to be overloaded with responsibilities.

There was Matias, a work colleague who had taken a big interest in Carin. He was such a big part of this book. I liked him okay. But I just never really connected with him enough to really root for him.

Overall, it was interesting to see Carin's struggles and journey. The locale for parts of the book was amazing. The characters were intriguing and different. And while I sympathized with Carin's predicament I just wanted to feel more.

Thanks to netgalley and Vesuvian Books for allowing me to read this book.
Profile Image for Malene.
1,172 reviews499 followers
July 25, 2020
Sadly this book didn’t work for me and it wasn’t because of the subject matter. I was well aware what the premise of the story was. My main issue and struggle was the characters Mathias and Carin. I especially had my problems with Carin. I didn’t like her and her reasons for making certain choices in her life. I could’ve maybe cut her some slack if she’d put up a fight and not just surrender to her feelings or had been honest from the beginning.
My expectations might I have played a part too. Here’s a woman who’s lost. In her marriage and with herself. I expected more self discovery and not her being dishonest to the people who love her.
I liked how the story was constructed. As a letter from Carin to Mathias. The writing was great too. Sadly it wasn’t enough to make it work for me.

*I received an arc from the publisher through Netgalley*
Profile Image for Michele.
1,131 reviews
August 14, 2019
The Year I Left was not an easy read. It was emotional in ways I wasn't quite prepared for. The heroine, Carin, was in a state of depression. I was shocked that her husband just went on status quo around her as if nothing was different. It never seemed like he tried to lighten her load. I guess maybe he did but not in the ways that she truly needed. Although, in fairness to Jack, I don't think she communicated her needs very well either.

I do think that for many women, some portion of this novel will be relatable. Not necessarily in the sense of going out and having an affair but from the standpoint of just wanting to crawl in bed some days and not do anything. To escape from your everyday, day-in-day-out existence. I think Ms. Brae reaches many of us with that. I know there are days that I'd like to throw it all in the air and not worry about paying bills, fixing dinner, going to work, feeding the dogs, doing the laundry, and so on. Maybe some days I'd like to read all day or Netflix all day or maybe float in my pool all day. Unfortunately, we don't get to do that. We do have responsibilities. We can take a day off here and there but we can't ignore our responsibilities for an extended period. I definitely wouldn't drop off the grid and leave my child or children. That, to me, is unthinkable. However, we know Carin was at a definite low point. Also, when she met Matias, he was also looking to escape impending responsibilities to his own family via an engagement to a woman he didn't love. Their situation was like a "perfect storm." The timing was there when they met and fell in love. Then it begs the question, at what point should "love be the priority" above all else? Does true love trump parenthood? Does it have the right to ruin a marriage even if the person you married isn't your soulmate, don't you have a responsibility to them? Should it be more important than your career?

I was back and forth with my feelings as I read this book. It's emotional and difficult to read because you know she's suffering but you still can't get behind everything she does because some of it seems so selfish. I won't tell much more because I don't want to give any of the storyline away. I'll just say that it was beautifully written. Ms. Brae definitely is a gifted author.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for KFForever.
1,053 reviews33 followers
July 23, 2019

5 Stars +++ ~ Reviewed by Sharon Thérèse at KindleFriendsForever

If I had to describe Christine Brae’s writing in one word, it would have to be magnificent. The flawless second-person singular narrative in past tense is a powerful one, taking the reader on a crushing journey from the protagonist’s perspective. In my opinion, using this inner thoughts method was brave as it could easily have isolated the other characters. This was by no means the case. And then came another delightful surprise. Plentiful dialogue between her heroine and the other characters was executed in such a way that I couldn’t pull myself away. The true-to-life plot is remarkably good, and it’s clear to see from this book and others from Brae that’s she’s a well-travelled woman. Her description of places and happenings gave me a certain déjà vu feeling, bringing out all the smiles, sometimes tears. And not only did the fish and chips scenario make me chuckle, but the mentioning of Spanish cities and wording was delightfully spot on.

I found it a tad difficult connecting with Carin Frost straightaway. If she hadn’t been so indecisive and got to grips with her issues earlier which was what I wanted, maybe I would have thought differently. Ahh, but later I realized how unfair my opinion of her was. The author clearly wanted me to suffer. Because I did…and a lot. With so much to lose, what’s there to gain by upsetting life’s balance when it appears that you have everything? Granted, she works long hours, is away from home more often than not and responsible for the running of a multinational business. A loving family, a husband who’s attentive and an adorable son wise beyond his years, yet with her admission, even when her selfishness was manifested, it became a welcome reprieve.

‘When you open up to even your closest allies, they always turn your deepest darkest secrets against you.’

Carin’s personal conflicts became mine and despite those around her having a very good idea she’s in pain, they don’t know to what extent. Unless she opens her heart to those who care for her, neither she nor they can move on. I’m sure many of us have had at one point or another experienced distress similar to hers. Illness, vulnerability in relationships, losing someone dear, these factors and more affect us deeply and we’re at a loss. Although her guilt is excruciatingly heartbreaking to read, I never ever blamed Carin for her actions. Intent on finding the peace of mind she desperately needs, I thought she would eventually find it. I’m leaving this question open for you. Will she?

‘I should be grateful, my life is so good. I have nothing to complain about. They’ve been trying to get me back, but I’m so far gone. I’m so far gone!’

Matias Torres is a successful Spanish businessman, drop-dead gorgeous, well-mannered and outwardly calms troubled waters. Inwardly, he also has problems of his own but of a different kind. Carin and Matias’ magnetic attraction for each other leaps off the pages. She tries to ward him off…well, as much as is possible and goes out of her way not to be around him. Still, all is not what it seems.

“When he’s around, I live a few brief moments. And then I die again.”

Here’s one totally smitten guy who’s respectful of her wishes. In one scene which left me aghast, he convinces her to take a running jump into the unknown. If Carin’s state of mind worried me, Matias’ worried me more. Why, when he has such a promising future, did he go to such extremes? Easy to answer, love. But in all its fragility and with so much at stake, trying his hardest to help Carin feel at ease with herself might not be enough.

“Could love come that quickly? Could it die in haste too?”

The before and the after. Part II is a game-changer. If I cried in the first half, heartfelt scenes in the second left me with a feeling of utter joy. Yet Brae still kept that sense of the fragility going. She gave me hope, she made me take a serious look at things we take for granted. Surrounding ourselves with seemly essential things that make us happy in Carin’s book, isn’t the answer. Actually, Brae’s look on life is nothing less than awe-inspiring, her descriptive writing which took me to paradise, out of this world.

‘We steal the moments that belong to others.’

Sadly, Christine’s creative penmanship we shall see no more. I can’t thank her enough for leaving us this legacy of characters impossible to forget, impossible to say goodbye to. The Year I Left is a masterpiece, it is everything. Brae coaxed every imaginable emotion out of me and had me rooting for both Carin and Matias. After turning the last page, I quite honestly didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or shout at the top of my voice. Not at all expected, it was an ending for a beginning. Or was it really? A love story with a difference, a top-quality romance not to be missed. Bravo!

‘Every beginning has an end. And every end starts with a beginning.’
Profile Image for Carlene Inspired.
917 reviews237 followers
August 20, 2019
Find this review and others at Carlene Inspired. Giveaway to be posted 8/23.

Sometimes you finish a book and it stays with you in an uncomfortable way. It leaves you with heavy thoughts and feelings, it stirs you up a bit inside, it might even wake up a part of you that you were not aware was sleeping. The Year I Left is Christine Brae's final novel, a bit of a love story to the career-oriented business women who shine outwardly, but have ever dimming insides. It's a story of love, loss, depression, and finding oneself in the midst of it all. She writes about hope and perseverance and her lyrical words completely took over my world for the few days I lived in the pages. The Year I Left tells a story that I can relate to and in the characters I saw myself.

"When did I start wishing I was like her? I thought it was my cross to bear. I thought that life was just like this. You live, you love, you lose."

Carin Frost is a wife, a mother, a successful business executive. On the outside she seems to have it all, but on the inside she is feeling lost. Her dissatisfaction with life has created problems within her home and her marriage, she's contemplated what it would look like if it all just went away. When a new business partner lights a spark in her, she begins to wonder what life would look like if she could walk away. Mattias Torres gives her a taste of fresh love, but the decisions associated with that love present a challenge she never dreamed of facing. Told in three parts, The Year I Left follows Carin as she struggles with her desire to escape and to love herself and life again.

"I saw summer. Your upturned lips touched the corners of your eyes. You exuded self-confidence. You smelled good. Women like summer. I get why those women were falling all over themselves over you."

There is a common theme in reviews for this novel, a resounding "I can't imagine doing that," and while I too cannot I felt it in my soul when Carin did it herself. Christine Brae created characters that I could so easily see myself in that when they made choices my real-self would not ever make, I still felt like it was me standing there weighing my options. It's a type of suffering that no one wishes on anyone, but so many experience. It's a story that, for me, will open up a dialogue about the depression and despair associated with it that we are so afraid to speak up about. Carin does what, at the time, she feels is best to save herself. It is selfish, but it is also brave, to say she had so many doubts and fears, that she was willing to let go of everything to try, to bring emotion and love back into her life. It's heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. I also really love how she approached commitment and living again, she embraced a different type of love in her seasons of change and from it she healed herself. There was no time in reading that I saw Carin as weak and it was sort of empowering to have a fictional character that, despite it all, finds a way to fight for herself again.

"But take your time to think about it. It may be that you're looking for a change. It doesn't have to be love. It could be that you've outgrown this life and those you love just have to keep up with you."

This isn't the book that gives you the clean, perfect HEA, but it is the book that gives you a true perspective on love, life, and family. With The Year I Left, Christine Brae celebrates friendships, families, successes, and the unexpected nature of life. I cannot recommend this profound story enough, just go into it with an open mind and an open heart. Embrace the hurt, the hard, the beautiful part of falling down and figuring out how one can pick themselves up again.

"The first bridge I'd burned. The first of many, in following my heart. After this, there would be no turning back."

ARC provided.
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,350 reviews365 followers
September 9, 2019
1.5 stars.

I found the synopsis for THE YEAR I LEFT appealing. I like books with married couples, mid life troubles and the worries and stresses that evolve in a relationship; it’s real. That said, this book was way out of what I thought when I read that blurb and I’m going to try to pinpoint why it didn’t work for me. There might be some mild spoilers.

The protagonist, Carin is a workaholic, driven and hugely successful business person with a husband and son. They’re financially loaded as a family and pretty materialistic. Carin was unlikeable from the off despite her circumstances and her grief. I could see her mental health problem immediately but that didn’t mitigate who she was and how she behaved. I’m sorry to say that I disliked her from start to finish and therefore, I didn’t really connect with her.

I did however, understand her feelings about Jack, her husband but I could not reconcile her parenting or connection with her son, Charlie. As for Matias, again I made no connection with him as a character or them as an evolving work colleague, friendship and more. To me, this was a story about unrelatable selfish people. The storyline took a ridiculous turn that sealed my difficulty with this book.

Added to these difficulties, the narrative was largely in the first person which I don’t normally mind. However, in this book it was written as a letter to Matias and I found it awkward to read and it continually took me out of the story. You find out later why this is, but it doesn’t help with processing the story for the rest of the book.

Whilst this book wasn’t for me, I do think some people will find the format and story appealing as it has emotional and angsty content. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the early review copy.

This review can be found on A Take From Two Cities Blog here.
Profile Image for Courtney.
1,529 reviews180 followers
August 15, 2019
The Year I Left is the first book I have ever read by Christine Brae. This book came on my radar when I saw she was going to be a signing author at an event that I was attending the blurb hooked me immediately. I was one of the lucky readers attending that signing that won an advance copy of the book.

Without life and its fierce protection, death always seeps in.

This book alone makes me want to go back and read the other books that Christine has written. However, her other books have quite a lot to live up to. The Year I Left is a book that will speak to so many on different levels; it is so real and relatable that I would recommend this anyone to read.

Christine hits so many poignant elements in this book with Carin’s story and it’s what makes it so relatable in so many different aspects. You can feel every emotion that Carin goes; how she carries so much on her back and shoulders – loss, despair, hopelessness. Carin has found herself living in this constant circle of being broken, that she lacked the vision on how to find herself again.

I don’t want to go too much into the details on this book as it is best to go through everything as you read. While this book does have romantic piece in it, this book is definitely more about the stages in Carin’s life that she struggles to handle and move forward from.

“I need to find myself. And then I’ll look for you.”

Christine has written a very powerful and moving story. There are bits and pieces that anyone can easily relate to and understand exactly what Carin is going through. While I may not understand her decisions, I completely understand her desire to find the answers she seeks.

The Year I Left will definitely be one of those books that not everyone will like. But I do hope it is one that everyone will try. A few of my friends enjoyed this book immensely like myself and others just couldn’t overlook certain aspects of that book and I totally understand that.

What made me love this book was the risks that Christine took in writing this book and the tough decisions her characters make. I love that this book pushes the envelope but also makes you look at life in a realistic way; it makes you take a step back and give thought to life in general.

This book is thought-provoking, poignant and passionate. While it is written in third person (something that I find difficult to pull off) it is very well articulated and allows you to understand Carin even more. This book touched my soul in so many ways and will definitely be one that I remember for years.

Love was about staying. Seeing things through. Most all, the voice in my head told me that courage and bravery were a product of unconditional love.
Profile Image for Amanda Jones.
79 reviews3 followers
May 17, 2019
Going into this book knowing it will be Christine’s last novel I have been slowing reading it to try and savor every word she’s written. She weaves an intricate tale of loss, love, family, regret and hope. This book is one that will stay with me long after the last page is read. A fitting final novel to an incredibly talented author.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,611 reviews160 followers
April 7, 2019
Do you ever read a book and inherently understand everything the main character is going through? I sure did as I read this wonderful, emotional, heartfelt, and passionate book by Christine Brae.

On the surface, it appears as if I have nothing in common with Carin Frost. She is a high-powered businesswoman, lives in a swanky home, and never has to worry about her checking account or her weight. Digging deeper, however, I connect with her. I understand her discomfort, her sense that her life–so perfect on the outside–has holes and gaps.

When Carin meets Matias, it’s as if a light shines into the darker, more distant parts of her heart. The elemental parts of her are drawn to the elemental parts of him. He completes her in a way that she didn’t know she needed to be completed. All of the agonies she’s been suffering–her inability to sit down and pay the bills, the clawing and scratching she does to her palm–make sense. She was missing something integral to her happiness and she wasn’t aware of it until she meets Matias.

When you’re married and have a child, you tend to sublimate your happiness, ceding it to your spouse’s and child’s. Carin is guilty of this, but it takes Matias to show her that it’s okay to open her heart to a new love. For Carin, though, the guilt is too strong at first. She’s a mother. She can’t abandon her child.

Christine Brae lets you feel all of Carin’s emotions: her ennui with her marriage, her devastation over a personal loss, the love of her son, the despair over not feeling tethered to her life, the passion and hope of a new love, the need–the very basic need–to choose herself.

It would be so safe for Carin to stay put, to live out her life. Yet Christine Brae gives you a character who chooses not to be safe. A woman who makes the very brave choice to heal herself.

To label this book as a romance is to somewhat minimize its effect. Yes, there is a romance, and it is consuming and heated. It’s also the story of a woman who learns what is missing from her life and sets out to capture it. You will cheer for Carin, and you also might just identify with her.

Profile Image for Laura.
373 reviews11 followers
April 6, 2019
Do you ever read a book that just speaks to your soul? That you read so fast because you can’t slow down? That is The Year I Left, for me.

I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher. I must precede this with the fact that I’ve been with Ms. Brae from the beginning. I’ve read every one of her books. Most before publication. I haven’t loved every book I’ve read. I’ve got to be honest. But, to watch the way that Ms. Brae has grown as an author is...amazing. I realize that’s not a great descriptive word, but that’s why I’m a reader and not an author.

I’m not a huge highlighter while reading books. I began highlighting with this book in chapter one. Quotes like, “I feel robotic, wooden,” “they say it takes one thing to push you over, to rouse you from your sleep. For me, it was a long time coming...” “most of us live our lives accepting what we have because we’re afraid to hurt those we love,” and “every beginning has an end. And every end starts with a beginning,” are just a few of the breathtaking moments I’m talking about. Sometimes you can just relate to characters in a book. Carin is that character for me. She has it all, yet, she’s just not present or happy. She doesn’t know how to dig herself out of the hell that she’s currently living. To watch her transformation from the beginning of this book to the end is just short of life changing. The ensemble of characters in this book just mesh so well together. There was never a time where I thought, “why is this person here?”

This book is written in third person and I did wonder if I would enjoy that. Suffice to say, it only added to the whole experience. I can’t say more than that without an explanation and to explain anymore would ruin the book.

This is just one of those books that absolutely touched my soul. I highlighted and cried (not in a bad way, just in an “I relate” sort of way) more than I have in a LONG time. Do yourself a favor and grab this one when it comes out.
Profile Image for Tee loves Kyle Jacobson.
2,471 reviews170 followers
April 12, 2019
Where do I begin for this review..... I laughed, I cried, and I yelled at my kindle because I had so many emotions going through me. Christine never ceases to amaze me by her writing. She draws you in and keeps you there and long after you have read the book you are still thinking about the main characters.

The way this story was written is amazing it starts with Carin and her struggles with life and her family when she meets Matias. When she meets him all things start to change for her and she finds purpose for living besides her son. She finds that their is air to breath and stars in the sky and she can see the future not just bleak days.

Then Carin and Matias start to become friends and something more. Everytime Matias is around Carin's heart skips a beat and he makes her want to live again. He takes away all of her pain and gives her this fresh out look on life. She is starting to live again and every time Matias is around she no longer has the depression or the sadness she has when she goes home to the same routine her and her husband have.

She needs more out of life and she knows it but she can't seem to face it and do it. She thinks it will break her family apart and she doesn't want to do that so she suffers in silence. Can Carin get the strength to move on and have a happily ever after or will she suffer in silence? Will Carin work herself to death or will she want to live each day with a fresh start?

Then the epilogue had me crying the entire way because Christine just knew how to gut your heart and bring it back together. I love this story and I need more of Matias and Carin. I hope to get more from Christine as I feel their story is just beginning.

Thank you Christine for another awesome read! Please give me the second book that I know everyone who reads this will want!
Profile Image for Layne.
Author 7 books127 followers
May 7, 2019
This book is beautifully written & Christine’s style is incredibly unique. At times wistful & at times heartbreaking, Carin’s story is relatable on many levels. There were times when her despair resonated so strongly with me. While I could never see myself making the choices she made, I completely understand her desire to feel whole again. She lived her life in a broken state for so long; she didn’t know how else to reclaim herself. This is a story about love and heartbreak, but it’s also a story of redemption. Life may feel like it’s over sometimes & when it does, you need to pick yourself up & try again.

*ARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Lisa Aiello.
846 reviews20 followers
August 2, 2019
This was definitely not the book for me. I didn't like the h, Carin. I found her selfish and felt no sympathy for her. I didn't understand how she fell into a relationship with Matias. There just wasn't much there to allow me to connect to them. All tell, no show. 40% in and I was ready to call it quits. I skimmed to the end to see how it all ended. And I must have missed something big, because the ending was so cryptic. I am wondering what I missed, so I will probably hunt for spoilers to see if someone explains it.
Profile Image for Becca.
1,986 reviews17 followers
February 21, 2019
Such an amazing story. I think any so many people will connect with this story and see a piece of themselves in Carin.

Such an emotional read.

Full review to come.
Profile Image for Jody.
472 reviews52 followers
August 6, 2019
Christine Brae is a first-time author for me. I must say her writing grabs you on an emotional level in this book. My problem was not with Ms. Brae's writing but with her main characters Carin & Matias. Their self-absorbed attitudes are enough to make anyone angry and resentful. I understand Carin was depressed, stressed, and feeling unloved by her husband, but I just could not understand why she just did not file for a divorce like anyone else. In addition, Matias, what a jerk, he reminded me of a spoiled child when things did not go as he felt they should go. It was just very hard for me to connect with these two. I do believe this is the perfect book for someone who could relate to Carin and her actions on her level. I received a copy of this book for my honest review from Xpresso Tours.
287 reviews2 followers
May 14, 2019
I just couldn't find this book believable in almost any way.. A highly successful business woman who is suffering from the loss of her mom, doesn't pay the bills, ruins the family credit, misses everything going on with her family, allows her hubby to spend beyond their means without comment.... need I go on?
Carin, the wife, mother, lover was depressed as I had mentioned, but on top of that she seemed too selfish to me. She neglected her son for her lover, but why run away from it all instead of do both if she really cared about either of them? Her marriage didn't make her happy, but she did nothing to try to work it out. Yes, hubby seemed like an overgrown 7th grade boy into his toys, but there was no effort on the part of either of them to try to see the other and make the other happy.
The lover was also too selfish and could only see that he wanted her and that no one else could have her without his feelings being hurt. Didn't she love him enough to leave her family and thoughts of them behind?
Sorry, this book was not for me; I just didn't like any of the characters. Thank you NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
289 reviews26 followers
May 13, 2019
Oh this book... It's so beautiful and so raw. We live our lives as mothers and as wives and often forget that we are a person outside of those two roles. We forget who we are, and the weight of that can come crashing down.

This book is about Carin and her life and how lost she began to feel. The weight of the loss of herself became to much to bare, yet she couldn't even understand it herself. That is, until she met Matias. Even then, she wasn't sure of where to go or what to do.

It's a tale of trying to find yourself while trying not to hurt others in the process. Of trying to make amends for your personal losses. The grief we can all feel when part of us dies.

It's a bumpy ride filled with smiles, and tears and a renewal of hope. You can't please everyone, but you have to start with yourself. You have to heal, so that you can make amends and move forward.
Profile Image for bookishashleigh.
62 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2019
Christine writes a beautiful novel that most of us can relate too. My favorite thing about all of CBs novels are all the tiny details she puts in describing things. I can always smell, see, and hear her words. Carin and Matias will have you rooting for them from the moment they meet to the end of the book. This book is ROMATIC AF.
Profile Image for January Gray.
727 reviews14 followers
May 14, 2019
This book bored me to death, and I skimmed a lot. I could not connect with the characters, and the story lacked flow.
Even at the beginning of the book, I found it odd that he mentions he has been meaning to see her in Chicago for business, and then moments later asks her if she lives in California?
I seriously did not see the point of this book.
Profile Image for Shalini.
2,477 reviews199 followers
August 18, 2019
This was a difficulty book to review as I went through various emotions as I read through it. It made me think back on my own life. Intense grief and severe clinical depression can make a human take decisions which they normally wouldn't have.

Caris Frost was not happy. Her mother had died, and her marriage was not working. Her life spiralled down. She was barely hanging on, only her son Charlie gave her pleasure. In such darkness that her life had become, Matias entered and she began to live. They went to Asia for a work project, and in the debris of the storm, something new was decided by both of them.

My first book by Christine Brae pulled me in different directions. The author's writing was smooth, she told me the story of a woman, in grief, who had lost herself trying to do it all. I could feel the envelop of sadness around her, I could feel her soul literally soffocating. Her bold move did give her happiness, and she began to emerge out of her shell.

This book made me think. So many times I too have thought to do what the main character did. But I would never to do that. Because of the varied decisions Carin and I would take in life, I couldn't begin to connect to her. Initially, I identified with her, but then I moved away. But to each, his or her own. I want to say I liked Matias, but I felt he was just a catalyst in the book for me.

For me, love between them happened in the last line of the last chapter. That was the exact time when I saw hope and happiness sending its tiny tendril of hope between. I could feel both the characters had matured, and as Matias said

It was a promise of a new beginning.
Profile Image for Tammy .
918 reviews111 followers
June 4, 2019
6 Holy F***! Holy F***! Holy F***! Stars
Favorite read of 2019.

Have you ever read a book and just knew it was going to be a favorite of yours for years to come? An automatic reread? A must have for your signed shelf? That's The Year I Left, for me. This book and its characters impacted my being. Carin and Matias are forever cemented in my heart and soul. I won't soon be forgetting them and the affecting, self-reflecting exploration they took me on.

"They say it takes just one thing to push you over, to rouse you from your sleep. For me, it was a long time coming, shredding parts of myself and what little resilience I had left."

I can't really go into detail with my review. I know its cliché but you really need to experience this book blind, with no bias. Just know by the time I closed the cover of this book I was a train wreck; a complete emotional mess. I was forever changed.

Weeks later and I am still finding myself thinking about Carin and Matias and all the feels that came with them. Their dynamic. Their chemistry. Their love. Their penance. Their recklessness. Their selfishness. Their happiness and sadness. Their survival.

While reading, keep in mind that sometimes we have no other choice but to make the ultra, hard decisions in order to fix the broken pieces within us. Even if isn’t a decision society or ourselves would deem appropriate. We aren’t robots. We aren’t just mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and friends. We are humans; with real human actions, thoughts, and feelings.

"I just stopped giving a damn. Nothing interested me. I was beset by indifference. I just couldn't keep up anymore. The sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the constant streaming in my head. Everything seemed so insignificant, so mundane."

And when you add that on top of mental illness…

So when you start to get pissed off or frustrated (You will. That I can promise.) push forward. Take this journey with Carin. See this through her eyes and the eyes of many of us who have felt that all-consuming desolate, depressive existence.

"In every life, there is that one time. When for one minuscule moment, you are selfish, self-serving, even hedonistic. You become a mercenary for yourself, an advocate for your own happiness."

I highly recommend The Year I left and the poignant, raw, gritty look at love, sacrifice, choices, strength, and self-discovery it delivers. The journey Brae and her characters take you on isn't for the faint of heart. It isn't for the judgmental. It isn't for the close minded. For most of us it will resonate on a myriad of levels. It will have you taking a second look at life around you. It will leave you altered. It will leave you questioning your own moral code/reality.

This exquisitely written gem is Brae at her best!

Thank you, Christine Brae, for the compliment copy of The Year I Left.

Profile Image for Anna Green.
350 reviews
August 11, 2019
Carin is a successfully independent career woman, a wife and a mother of a ten-year-old boy frantically juggling chores and duties. The recent death of her mother plus the growing distance between her and her husband adds up to her feeling of despondency and resentment, emptiness and overwhelming emotions. Reading through all these and how she reacted to family situations you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a psychologist to know that she is clinically depressed; although her husband’s laissez faire attitude towards her doesn’t help either.

This beautiful narrative is written in three parts, the first two in Carin’s point of view and the last one is from Matias’ perspective. Ms. Brae never disappoints with her stories, she has a knack of weaving a tapestry of words that will keep you entertained. Although I loved the plot of this story, I find the main characters a bit hard to like at some points in this book: Carin with her life-changing decisions, Jack’s emotional detachment and Matias’ selfish attitude. They might not be the lovable characters I hoped I’d find in this book but one can totally relate on how they feel. There are some minor details regarding Carin’s background that I thought was contradictory but I don’t want to split hairs about it because overall this is a wonderful story about life, love and second chances.

“Because of you, I have heard the colors of the sky, seen the rushing of the wind and tasted the sound of love’s sweet words. To you, I give all my life, all my love, my present and my past.
Whether together or apart the one truth I will always have is you.”

I have followed this author’s journey in writing and considering that this will be her last one, I thought that she finished it on a high, at the top of her game. A truly poignant swan song this book is one of my favourite reads this year. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rachel Schneider.
228 reviews9 followers
January 9, 2021
Oh I do not know where to start. This book evokes just about every emotion you could imagine while reading. My heart was broken and healed. I cried and I loved and I laughed. And when it was over I wanted MORE! Brae knocked this one out of the park!
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