Lisa Mettauer's Reviews > What You Have Left

What You Have Left by Will Allison
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 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 to kill himself before he gets too gone, and she doesn’t want to be abandoned by yet another family member. Before he gets real sick, Cal decides to fix up the farm house for Holly, and hires Lyle to do the work, managing to provide Holly with a new family member. The two fall in love and eventually marry.

But Holly’s reaction to her grandfather’s disease is to fall apart. She’s drunk almost all the time, and then takes off to find her dad. And ultimately, that’s what the book is about, how Wylie and Holly eventually find and reconcile with each other.

Allison has written the novel in a series of chapters narrated by Holly, Wylie and Lyle, out of order chronologically, so it helped to refer to the table of contents to keep the timeline straight. But this is a minor complaint. Allison has created a good and realistic cast of characters, with human strengths and frailties aplenty. The hard-driving women (Holly’s mom Maddy is a NASCAR wannabe) are particularly well imagined. And the relationship between Lyle and Holly is one of the most accepting and forgiving that I can remember.

By the way, the title comes from a quote by Hubert Humphrey: “It is not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left. “
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 14, 2008 – Finished Reading
August 10, 2009 – Shelved
August 10, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction

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