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The Ones We Leave Behind

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Diane picked up her mother’s phone. “How do you feel about your mother being let out of prison today after sixty-five years?” the reporter asked. Diane stared at her mother. “My grandmother is alive?” That one phone call hurled shock waves throughout the entire family.

1955 – Anna Bergman Craine’s life changes in an instant when she commits a crime of passion and is sentenced to life in prison. Leaving behind two young children, she is left alone in the world, never to hear from family or friends again. Decades later, she is set free, and finds she has a family that has chosen to forget her. What caused this beautiful, intelligent, young woman to commit such a drastic deed that would pull her away from everyone she loved?

2020 – Diane Martin is shocked to learn that not only is her maternal grandmother alive, but she’s just been released after decades in prison. Against her aging mother’s wishes, she visits the older woman and soon hears a tale of the events that led up to that tragic day in 1955. Diane realizes that her own life has mirrored that of her grandmother’s and, had circumstances gone differently that fateful day, she might have experienced the same fate.

A heart-wrenching story of a family torn apart because of a moment in time and trying to put the pieces together after being separated for decades.

Kindle Edition

First published August 25, 2020

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About the author

Deanna Lynn Sletten

29 books508 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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5 stars
3,300 (66%)
4 stars
1,166 (23%)
3 stars
352 (7%)
2 stars
87 (1%)
1 star
32 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 379 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa Pennucci.
108 reviews
September 30, 2021
I think 2 stars is generous for this book - and it’s mostly because the story had such potential. A woman finds out her grandmother is alive after being released from prison for killing her grandfather - kind of intriguing. But what a terribly written book… it was written like an elementary student wrote it. The language was juvenile and the metaphors old. The simplicity of the sentences were almost laughable. I’m not sure how I made it through this abomination. Definitely not recommending this one to anybody. Glad that’s over!
Profile Image for J.E. Grace.
Author 12 books92 followers
May 31, 2021
An amazing story of abuse, courage, and tough choices. I could understand why Anna found herself trapped with no other choice to make. Living in the time that she did, things were very hard for a married woman.

I laughed at some of the cute comments Barry made as he supported Diane's decisions. I admired Diane's strength, patience, and ability to try a relationship in spite of her past.

The story was well-written and described in such detail that it was almost like I was watching it happen. Even the abusive parts were handled well, even though I cried with empathy and found myself reaching for the tissues.

I will definitely read more of her work.

Profile Image for Susan (The Book Bag).
798 reviews68 followers
September 6, 2020
Can you even imagine finding out that your grandmother is alive after being told all your life that she was dead? And then to find out that she has spent the last 65 years of her life in prison. Inconceivable! So, of course, Diane has to reach out to her grandmother but in the process of listening to her story, and to her mother's version, she gets conflicting accounts of Anna, the life she lead, and how she ended up in prison.

We are transported to Anna's life in the 1950's as she shares her life back then with her granddaughter. Things were wonderful for Anna once upon a time, until they weren't anymore, until 1955 when the unthinkable happened.

The story alternates to the present, where Diane is trying to understand all of this and to make sense of what her grandmother went through. all while trying to convince her mother to come face-to-face with the women she has hated most of her life.

Once again, Deanna has created a memorable, heartbreaking, beautiful story that will make you feel all the feels—joy, love, fear, anger, betrayal, forgiveness, despair, acceptance—and so much more.

The Ones We Leave Behind is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction and women's fiction. It definitely fits the bill for both of these genres. I loved it, like I knew I would, and I highly recommend it!
103 reviews8 followers
July 31, 2021
Very well written . A story about Diane and her interactions with her Mother and her grandmother (whom she has recently discovered). Human emotions abound in this story and how Diane deals with the story of her grandmothers and mothers stories of the past. A good read that will keep you involved until the very end no matter your age.
Profile Image for Ari.
725 reviews20 followers
June 11, 2021
This was an interesting concept but to me, the writing felt poor at times. Just a bit cheesy.
Profile Image for Lovetoread.
342 reviews27 followers
June 26, 2022
I borrowed The Ones We Leave Behind by Deanna Lynn Sletten from Kindle Unlimited. I have never read any of Ms. Sletten novels before reading The Ones We Leave Behind. All I can add from the general description of this novel is this. If you have a list of books for 2022 to must read, make sure this one is on that list. What an incredible read. I know I have just read this novel, but I plan to buy it because I know I will want to re-read it in a few years. Also, I plan to look into more of Ms. Sletten novels, she is an incredible author.
Profile Image for Linda.
572 reviews
January 14, 2021
Great book

I really enjoyed this book. I've never read a storyline like this. While it's hard to comprehend how someone stays in an abusive relationship, I've read enough other stories and articles about it to understand the varied reasons why. Like so many situations, bad or good, you can't really say what you'd do for sure until you are in one yourself.
25 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2021
This was an excellent story. It held my interest from beginning to end. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Kelly Keemer.
80 reviews2 followers
October 9, 2021
I couldn’t even finish this book. Honestly I got four chapters in and the writing just wasn’t up to par. I’m sure the story was decent (although many reviews I saw - after I went to rate this book and quickly shove it off my currently reading list - called it predictable and said the story had potential) but I couldn’t get past the writing. The dialogue was so generic and the flow to it was not realistic at all. I felt like it was someone’s first attempt at writing a story that they wanted to rush to make points instead of allowing the dialogue or story to unravel itself organically. Someone else used the word sophomoric to describe the writing and I totally agree. I hate starting a book and not finishing but this just wasn’t up my alley.
Profile Image for Mary.
Author 1 book1 follower
March 26, 2021
Interesting story

Anna is released from prison after serving 65 years for killing her husband. Her granddaughter starts visiting her and recording her story.
The story is about poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence that seems to be generational. As Anna’s story unfolds it prompts her daughter and granddaughter to deal with their own stories.
It is a good story but probably a bit too drawn out. I felt that many of the themes were used one too many times and that did not enhance the plot.
Overall, this is a very readable book and presents a unique perspective of a 95 year old woman making a life for herself after so many years in prison.
July 30, 2021
This was an amazing book and the dynamics of a woman back in the 1950s dealing with physical abuse and an alcoholic husband. The granddaughter looks back at the history of a grandmother she had never heard of and her own past, each deals with their own fears, heartache, and problems in their own way. I couldn't put it down. Well written, and a beautiful story. I will have to check out more books by this author
Profile Image for Elaine.
180 reviews13 followers
August 21, 2022
This is story about Anna whose life changes when she loses everything and spends 65 years in prison. When her granddaughter finds out about her and meets her, Anna relives her life through stories that no one knows, it is a heartwarming story of forgiveness and life journeys that are often misrepresented. Highly recommend this book…
4 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2021
Sad but moving story

I’m thankful for how this story ended. It was a very quick read, and hard at times to hear, but the characters really pulled you in and made you feel for them. All in all, a good read.
25 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2023
3.5 rounded up

Overall interesting plot for a book. I really like when authors do the back and fourth past present story line; however, I did feel like the majority of the present storyline with Diane was repetitive with her just re telling Anna’s story to her family and it made the book drag.

I loved how Joanie came around to finally meeting Anna and think that although I felt like there would be more mystery to what happened to Anna it was written not as a mystery for a reason to illustrate the sad truth of women being in abusive relationships.

This book could’ve been shorter
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
21 reviews
March 28, 2023
3.5 but rounded down. This book had a lot of valuable aspects but it slightly missed the mark for me. It felt anticlimactic. I almost thought there was going to be a twist by how Diane spoke about Barry. It was corny and overdone so I assumed there would be a twist, but nope. I wish there was something that connected her chapters more to Anna’s other than her just talking about it.

Anna’s story definitely pulled at the heart strings from growing up to present day. It puts a lot of things into perspective about our present day standard of living, especially for women.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
104 reviews
March 11, 2022
This is one of those books that popped up on my IPad that sounded intriguing. The story of a woman who discovered she had a 95 year old grandmother who was just let out of prison after 65 years for murdering her husband. I downloaded the sample and then bought the book for $4.99. It was the story of hardship, abuse, love and forgiveness. I couldn’t put it down!
5 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2023
Heart wrenching story with hope and reconciliation

Excellent writing, the characters were so real and vivid,the story will remind you not to judge others until you know their story, Joan was an alcoholic who tried to bury her hurts from seeing her dad abuse her mom,she herself married an abusive man,see how the generational curse was broken and a family was restored.
Profile Image for Kathryn Spurgeon.
Author 18 books193 followers
July 30, 2021

I liked the plot and the realistic characters. The book certainly kept my interest all the way through. Some morality issues.
Profile Image for Mary Linda Beall.
83 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2021
Heartwrenching story of lives filled with abuse, poverty, lies and disappointment. The ending is a tear-jerker.
Profile Image for Brandi.
492 reviews2 followers
December 20, 2021
Loved loved loved.

I loved this book. I really felt like I knew the characters. I loved Anna and Diane the most of course but all the characters were so rich and well written. I would recommend to a friend, matter of fact I already did even before I finished it.
Profile Image for Jaye.
65 reviews1 follower
June 13, 2022
This is the first book I've read from this author, and it didn't disappoint. I loved the story, characters, and the writing format.This book held my interest and I had trouble putting it down. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Lesia Orders.
129 reviews
July 29, 2021
Such a great story

Really enjoyed this! I couldn't put it down ! Would love it to continue the story with Diane! Definitely a Goodreads!
840 reviews5 followers
January 18, 2021
An Unforgettable Book

This is a book I will never forget. Anna is introduced to us as a poor child living with relatives. They were dirt poor, but took in Anna and her brother in and did their best to feed and clothe them. As Anna and her brother grew up, they began to think about leaving and making lives for themselves.

Anna left home after finishing school and she had high hopes for what her life could be. She married a man who was abusive and controlling. This book is actually the story of the results of this marriage.

Read this book. I hope I never forget it.
143 reviews
October 20, 2021
I tell you - some women are so amazing, strong, nurturing. Love the grandmother's strength & resilience. No complaints. Cheers to them.
Profile Image for Eileen Patterson.
165 reviews21 followers
May 30, 2021
As Good as You've Heard

I've heard a lot about this book since it came out, so I finally had to read it and see of it's as good as everyone says it is. I'm happy to report that this is one book that lives up to its hype.

This is the story of Diane, a woman in h÷r fifties who discovers one day that the grandmother she always thought was dead has actually been serving a life sentence in prison for killing her husband years ago. This is the story of how that one act shaped her life, and the lives of her children who were left behind. This is the story of her sad life that led up to that horrible murder. It's alsithe story of how society used to view women and abuse, and how things have changed over the years, but maybe not enough. It's a story of how violence affects broken families, and how sometimes those wounds can take years to heal. It's a sad story, but a good story, and it's important to read sad stories like this, so we can see how far we have come and how far we must go, and so we can remember the past so we don't repeat it in the future. It's really an important book, and well worth checking out.
8 reviews
June 29, 2021
The years left behind came forward!

A very touching story of a family missing the moments of love and tenderness missing in their lives. Seems the group exhibited the same characteristics down the line from early years. Hard work and poverty helped to add living a life of compatibility a daily struggle, with days of liquor drinking, arguing, foul language, and a lot of unstable days and hurt feelings. Children were not treated with affection and a hug almost non-existent. They were treated like slave labor. In this time period the Great Depression added much strife to their lives, food was a staple in homes, but they stuggled to have a decent meal. As years came and went Anna the 95 year old great-grandmother appears this really changes the fourth generation. Loved the ending it brought everyone together. Love conquers all!
February 11, 2021
Best book.

Excellent book. Couldn't put it down. Author makes you feel the emotion and pain Anna went through. Highly recommend it. Best book I've read in a long time. Will definitely dread more by this author.

February 22, 2021
A story of three generations of women that all suffered from some type of abuse and how they all came together after 65 years. It was hard for me to put it down and I read it in two nights. It will stay with me for awhile.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 379 reviews

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