After the death of her mother, Carin Frost wakes up one morning and knows things will never be the same for her or her family. She is 35-years-old when she begins to identify her feelings of loss. Christine Brae’s sixth novel, The Year I Left (Vesuvian Books), weaves the story of both Carin’s search for salvation from emotional indifference and her belief that only love will once more fill her heart, with a raw look at the impact of her choices that leave her family and friends abandoned.
From the beginning, Brae presents clues as to Carin’s mental health. The late summer after her mother’s death, Carin’s focus and energy along with her feelings for her husband, Jack, dissipate. She stops painting pictures and paying bills. She sleeps away her weekends. She suffers from suicidal ideation. Only her son, Charlie, anchors her to a family life she no longer embraces.
Throughout the novel, Brae carefully unveils the details of Carin’s life. She married at age 25 after knowing Jack for two months. Less than nine months later, she gave birth to Charlie and Carin’s mother moved in with them. Early into the marriage, Jack quit his job because of ‘burn out’ after earning millions. Carin continued to work as the CCO of Sardonyx, a development company in Chicago, while Jack stayed at home spending money on hobbies and extravagant home improvements.
Brae’s first-person narrative comes alive as she describes Carin’s trip to San Francisco, the location of Sardonyx’s sales office. There she experiences two random meetings with Matias Torres who coincidently was recently hired by her company to partner with her on projects. Carin then addresses her narrative directly to Matias creating an intimate portrait of their evolving relationship. Carin and Matias eventually pitch a strategy to the company’s Board of Directors compelling them to purchase an Asian island as a site for real estate development. All the while, Carin resists Matias’ advances and his claims that he can ‘fix’ her emotional state.
On the home front, a boarding school for gifted children admits Charlie while Carin tells Jack she wants a divorce and moves out. Two months later, she finds herself in Southeast Asia, with Matias, signing a contract to purchase an island in the South Pacific for a resort their company wants to develop. When they visit the island, they abruptly abandon everything, their families, friends, and careers. The following six months are idyllic as Carin gets to be anonymous on the island. No one knows where they are. Will their time together ever end? The author expertly hints at the inevitable.
At its core, Brae’s novel is a portrait of depression personified by Carin. Carin believes love is the sole remedy for her “indescribable sadness,” despite the alternate advice she receives from her sister and her best friend. Brea courageously exposes the flaws in her protagonists, Carin and Matias, while showing their redeemable qualities. As such, on the island, Carin hides her correspondence with her sister from him; Matias wants “too much from her,” his love is so deep.
Christine Brae wrote this gripping novel about a woman coping with a complicated disease: clinical depression. This disease affects one out of every six people sometime in their life according to the CDC. Such an intense subject, few authors identify it and few authors attempt to describe it in their main character. That writing makes The Year I Left a powerful read and, in the end, a beautiful story of love, family and second chances.
The Year I Left is available for preorder.
About Christine Brae:
CHRISTINE BRAE is a full-time career woman who thought she could write a book about her life (The Light in the Wound, 2013) 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. Her second book, His Wounded Light, was released in December 2013.
Christine’s third book, Insipid, is a standalone that was released in June 2014. Her fourth book, In This Life, released in January 2016. Eight Goodbyes released in August 2018.
When not listening to the voices in her head or spending late nights at the office, Christine can be seen shopping for shoes and purses, running a half marathon or spending time with her husband and three children in Chicago.
Christine is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo Helin Literary Management.