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What You Have Left

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  730 ratings  ·  138 reviews
"What You Have Left" is an unforgettable story of love, loss, and, most of all, longing.In 1976, on the day of his wife's funeral, Wylie Greer drops off his five-year-old daughter, Holly, at his father-in-law's dairy farm on the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina. Wylie tells her he just needs a little time to clear his head, but thirty years pass before Holly sees her ...more
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  730 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
Well I just finished this book, and contrary to everyone else's reviews, I didn't like it. At first, I found the characters and the short stories touching. But about halfway through, the changing perspectives just got old and confusing. I think it ended up detracting from the original bond you felt towards the characters, which led to my disinterest in the book. Eventually, I just really didn't care anymore. When the ending finally came, when everything and all the stories and viewpoints finally ...more
Apr 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Everybody has problems, but it seems like the people in Will Allison’s novel, What You Have Left, have nothing but problems. And how do they cope with these problems? They lie, cheat, smoke, gamble, sleep around, vandalize, kill, commit suicide, drink, run away, and abandon a child. And yet, throughout it all, we can’t help but hope that they will solve their problems, straighten out their lives, and achieve a sense of peace and happiness. The novel is told by different characters, sometimes in ...more
Burlingame Public Library
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who enjoy books like "Empire Falls" by Russo
I enjoyed this book a great deal. The story of a father who abandons his daughter after her strong-willed, race-car driving mother dies. The father and daughter's eventual reunification is the crux, but only a facet of the tale. It's one of those quiet, seemingly effortless studies, told from from various character points of view. I say quiet and effortless because the author manages with ease to get his reader to feel, hear and experience these relationships with their full dimension in tact, w ...more
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I just read "Long Drive Home" by Allison, and at the end of the book was the beginning of this book, his first novel, and I read it, so then I had to run to the library and check out the book and finish it (sometimes those teasers work!). I've found that I really like Allison's straight-forward way of writing. And he does such a good job of getting you into the head of his characters. In this novel he follows a family through the 1970s to present day. Wylie Greer takes his young daughter to stay ...more
Colleen Turner
I received this book as a first read from Goodreads.

I have to say I was disappointed in this book. From the description it sounds like a redemptive, heart warming book that might showcase some dark times but, in the end, show that most people are good at heart. Instead I could only find one character in the book I didn't loathe, and that was the youngest member of this dysfunctional family that is only ten years old at the most recent part of the book (it skips back and forth over ti
Victoria Slotto
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it
I won this book through GoodReads and overall, enjoyed it. Allison's writing style is smooth and he draws the reader in to the characters emotional life in a subtle way...not overly effusive.

I will admit I had two major issues with the novel. I found the sequencing to be disconcerting, requiring me to reorient myself to the story line with each new chapter. This was compounded by the fact that the names of two major characters, Lyle and Wylie, were so similar. If I had been in involv
Mary Wagner
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
I feel like I'm in a difficult to please mode when it comes to reading. This book also did not please me. After her mother dies, Holly (age 5) is left by her father with her grandfather.

The book jumps around in time, going from before Holly was born, to long after she is married with a child of her own. I think I would have like to like Holly, as I would have liked to like her husband. I wasn't really given the opportunity to like her mother or her father.

Overall, I find it difficul
Gayle Fleming
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
I don't think I have ever read a book where I disliked the protagonist and most of the other characters so much. I had such a hard time getting through this book because the characters were so obnoxious and unlikeable. Holly is abandoned by her father at five years old after her mother is accidentally killed. Wiley, her father is wracked with guilt about his wife and leaves Holly with her maternal grandfather promising to return. He never does. Lyle is Holly's wimpy boyfriend and later husband. ...more
Badly Drawn Girl
Mar 23, 2010 rated it it was ok

A promising story gets bogged down by too many jumps in time and character switches. I was constantly confused, and when I would finally catch up with where I was in the space/time continuum, the book would switch directions again. The resulting snapshots aren't even fully formed. Time and time again we don't see the resolution to the problems. We just jump ahead some more years, and learn about a new issue. It's all a disjointed mess, which is unfortunate because it really did start out well.
judy-b. judy-b.
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: readandloved
The chapters of this book are as heavy and tight as the hearts they illustrate. A daughter, her father, and her husband each struggle in their own ways to be true to themselves and one another, and each succeeds and fails in a different way.

Will Allison has a way of telling a tough story so you want to hear it; he shows us the beauty in pain and the transformation available to someone who's not afraid to struggle.
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Fast enjoyable read about a young girl who, at five years old, must deal with the loss of her mother to an accident and the loss of her father who walks out the day after the funeral. She is brought up by her Grandfather. The story shifts back and forth to the past to her mother and father's live's and back to the present to her's. Highly recommend.
Maureen Henderson
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit I fought loving this book. It's eight chapters long, and on finishing the second one it dawned on me that this was a series of linked short stories, rather than a work originally conceived as a novel. I'm trying to learn how to write a novel and have been studying them closely, reading slowly, taking notes. I've been trying to stay away from the lure of short stories, though I've always hugely preferred them to novels.

I stuck with Allison's novel anyway, because the writing was
Lynette Hague
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was his debut novel which I read after I read his second one. I gave his second one 2 stars and this one is about the same. There is nothing especially good or bad about either novel, they are just rather average.
If the reader is interested in anything about the older Nascar days, there is some fun information about that but the story and the characters just aren't all that interesting. The women are very headstrong (sometimes to their own detriment) and the men just try to appease them. ...more
Charlie Watts
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: friends
Beautifully efficient and insightful prose. Graceful trip through multiple generations that proves the rule once again that karma is a tough boss. Vivid, compelling scene-setting and rich characters filled with everything that makes life interesting -- fear, desire, compassion, humor, and crazy ideas. A very rewarding read.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I struggled to respect Lyle ( I think that was his name). I couldn't understand why he would get involved with someone so intense as the story doesn't show much depth in Holly's (?) character. It's his first book though so I might consider reading more of his work.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any child growing up in the 60's
Recommended to Selah by: Random House
With some small changes, this could be a book about my life. Will Allison has successfully tapped into the minds of little girls left behind and the parents that left them, through death or desertion.
Is the voice of Holly accurate? Oh indeed and I can report on a cross country trip I DEMANDED of my father who bought me dinner and listened patiently while I boxed him soundly around both ears with emotional jabs that were worthy of my being sentenced to life + 30. Just because I could.

Some might
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Will Allison’s debut novel What You Have Left, reads like a series of connected short stories. When the book opens, five year old Holly has just been dropped off at her grandfather’s dairy farm. Her father says he’ll be back, waves good-bye and disappears from her life for thirty years. What follows are alternating narratives of the years both before Holly’s birth (concerning her parents Wylie and Maddy) and after, concerning Holly’s relationship with Lyle.

Holly is a bit of a train wreck.
Lisa Mettauer
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I seem to be coming across some great little novels lately. What You Have Left, by Will Allison is one of them.

In it, Holly is left at her grandfather Cal’s farm when herleft.jpg mother dies in a boating accident. Her dad, Wylie, keeps only minor contact during her childhood and Holly grows up very close to her grandfather. As she begins college, Cal starts showing signs of Alzheimer’s - which he knew he’d inherit from his father. So the two grapple with conflicting needs: he wants t
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
TITLE: What You Have Left
Date Read: 11/25/13
GENRE/PUB DATE/PUBLISHER/# OF PGS: Fiction/2007/Free Press/210 pgs

TIME/PLACE: 1970's, 1990's & 2007/ South Carolina
CHARACTERS: Wylie Greer father to Holly; Lyle - Holly's husband

FIRST LINES: I was sentenced to life on my grandfather's dairy farm in the summer of 1976. The arrangement was supposed to be temporary, a month or so until my moth
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Richard Russo fans, Book Clubs
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway and may not have picked it up otherwise, at least not until Will Allison becomes popular which he is bound to do. He's reminiscent of Richard Russo. The chapters in the novel switch between the characters of Holly, her father, and her husband spanning a lifetime of, well, "life". If you don't like this style of writing then this novel isn't for you, but I generally think the changing points of view and time keep the story fresh and the reader interested. And Wi ...more
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Hubert Humphrey said “My friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts, it’s what you do with what you have left.” I did not want this book to end. I loved everything about it, the characters, the story line, the writing style, everything about this book was stellar. The story is about a girl named Holly who is sent to live with her grandfather after her mother dies. Her father promises to come back for her but never does. Holly marrys Lyle, a guy she met while he was working on her ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it liked it
As I began reading this book I was really taken in and felt like it was a really interesting story and the author was a good writer. However, in the end I never really connected with the story or it's characters.

The premise of the story is about a girl named Holly and her coming to terms with her mother's sudden death and her father's abandonment. One can sense throughout the story the despair that Holly has felt throughout her life after literally being given away to her Grandfather to raise h
Apr 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Very excited to have won this through Goodreads Firstreads giveaway. Thanks Goodreads!

I was intrigued by the premise of this story...a young girl is left at age 5 at the home of her grandfather by her father after her mother's death. Most can only imagine the deep sense of grief a child would feel after watching their father walk away, never to return again.

But the path to their reunion 30 years later proceeds in a series of recollections by and about people, places, and
Oct 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
Just thoughts, really. Not sure I want to 'review' a book I've read.

This book was a gift and I think it was given to me with a sense of thoughtfulness because I'm a single father. I'm very much in my daughter's life, but there's always that fear that somehow our connection will get lost as she grows up.

As for the book, the characters were thin for me. A female character written by a man seems difficult to do, and I think this was a shortcoming in his work. Wally Lamb, I t
Jan 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Following his wife’s death, Wylie Greer drops off Holly, his 5-year old daughter, at his father-in-law’s dairy farm, never to be seen again. As the years pass, Holly thinks of Wylie frequently, unable to let go of a wish to find and confront him. A few decades down the line, Holly is married and has a feisty daughter, not unlike herself. Having leads on Wylie’s whereabouts, but unsure whether a happy reunion is possible, she makes the decisive move to seek out her father once and for all. The bo ...more
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was looking for The Long Drive Home but found this on the library shelf instead. I was a little disappointed but after reading a few pages I was hooked. I usually predictably dislike unlike able characters but these characters drew me to them and a kept wanting to read more about their story. I loved the different perspectives and the back and forth in time and did not find it confusing or too hard to follow. I did wish there was a little bit more resolution between Wylie and Holly as I was un ...more
Oct 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I love the double entendre of the title which can be interpreted as 1) what you left behind and 2) what remains. The book canvases both definitions, exploring the lives of a woman whose father abandoned her as a child after the death of her mother, her husband, and the father.

The author creates several striking contrasts in the book to demonstrate how people react, internalize and express differently. Cal, the grandfather, and Wylie, the father, both suffer from neurological diseases
May 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Stumbled into this while on the hunt for the author's other book Long Drive Home. My library didn't have that book so I picked this one up instead. ~Pretty crazy cover, huh? The baby's pretty high up! When she falls back down she's 30 years older ... the time it took between when Wylie Greer dropped off his 5yo daughter, Holly, at his father-in-law's to when they saw each other again. In between, there were stories of grief, reflections, racing, love, and understanding. The dynamics of longing was ce ...more
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I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and now live with my wife and daughter in South Orange, New Jersey. In between, I've lived in Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and elsewhere; taught creative writing at The Ohio State University, Butler University, and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; and worked as executive editor of Story, editor at large of Zoetrope ...more