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WHEN YOU GO AWAY by Jessica Barksdale Inclán


by Jessica Barksdale Inclán

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-451-20787-4
Publisher: NAL/Berkley

A fault line opens—and a troubled family is torn apart.

Peri MacKenzie must care for her severely handicapped child without much help after her selfish husband decamps, but she does so with heart and humor . . .until the day she disappears. Then her precociously maternal daughter Carly takes over, carefully feeding five-year-old Brooke through a tube, cleaning and diapering her paralyzed body, and cheering her up with TV cartoons. Faithfully following Peri’s routine, right down to greeting her sister every morning with the wry “Hello, Exceptional Individual,” Carly wonders when her mother will come back—never doubting her return. But she doesn’t. Not wanting to cause trouble for her beleaguered family, resigned to receiving no help from her mostly oblivious 15-year-old brother, Carly gets by, hoping Brooke won’t spike a fever, as she frequently does. When the thermometer reveals a temperature that Tylenol won’t bring down, she calls on neighbor Rosie Candelero, a nurse, for help, and at last the social workers arrive. The little girl is found to have bedsores and other ailments, though it’s clear that Carly did her best. Eventually, Peri’s ex-husband Graham shows up—not that he’s immediately willing to admit any responsibility for driving his unwanted former family into near poverty. Someone else is going to have to be a hero. He couldn’t do it when Brooke was born and he can’t do it now. Then Peri’s father Carl returns, more or less out of the blue. A well-off, retired real-estate agent, Carl abandoned Peri and her mother Janice long ago, and now regrets it. He sees the situation as his chance to make amends and redeem himself, though Janice has been dead for several years and Peri is now in a mental institution (that’s where she’s gone) after a suicide attempt. Yet slowly—ever so slowly—the family begins to heal.

Muted, poignant drama with an immensely appealing depth, plain grace—and echoes of Inclán’s Her Daughter’s Eyes (2000).