Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Spotlight/Print Book Giveaway: If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton

About the Book

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Mariner Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: June 14, 2016

Synopsis from FSB Associates...

All relationships have their ups and downs. For Althea and Oliver Willow, the ups and downs are a bit . . . extreme.

Welcome to the bipolar marriage.

Althea is a thirty-seven year old upper crust Manhattan-ite on the brink of another breakdown—her fifth in nine years. Diagnosed with manic depression, she has spent her marriage oscillating between what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions”. Her husband Oliver has been there for her through all of it. It is Oliver who packs her bag for the hospital, who visits during visiting hours after each suicide attempt, and who takes care of their nine-year-old daughter Clem. It is Oliver who holds their family together.

Discharged from the hospital, Althea decides that this summer will be different—she will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother that Clem deserves. This summer, she will be “normal”. When the family moves to their East Hampton mansion for the summer, for the first time in Clem and Althea’s lives as mother and daughter there is no “summer girl” there to pick up the slack when Althea cannot face the reality that comes with being a mother.

But once they arrive, nothing goes according to Althea’s plan. Oliver becomes even more distant, and his relationship with their interior decorator is a bit too close. Clem also seems not to need her as a mother, and Althea finds that getting to know her own daughter is far more exhausting than she had though it would be. Into this scene enters the much younger, attractive, David Foster Wallace-reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried.

Fearless, darkly funny, and compulsively readable, If You Left, is a searing exploration of the limits of family and the unavoidable truth that sometimes in order to move forward we have to destroy the things we've worked so very hard to build.

Excerpted from If You Left
by Ashley Prentice Norton

But when she tried to hang herself, the shower rod couldn't sustain her weight and it slid down the wall, taking her with it. Jesus. Her sole injury was a laceration from smacking her head on the tub. The only upside of this whole fiasco was that she had found something to do from 8:42 a.m. to 9:06 a.m. Filling time was always a bitch during the Tombs.

Suzanne, Clem's latest nanny, found her trying to clean up the blood on the bathroom floor with a handful of Cottonelle. Suzanne phoned Oliver right away, but the head injury was not bad enough for her to call 911. For the moment, Althea might be sick, but she was safe. Attempting suicide was like having sex: there was always a lull before having another go.

When Oliver arrived, he calmly strode into the bathroom, blazer off, with the composure of someone who could see past a crisis and knew exactly how to fix it.

Oliver gently guided his wife up from the floor and pulled her to his chest; her hair, matted with dried blood, left imprints over his Thomas Pink shirt.

Althea. Oliver never asked Why? or How could you? She could barely talk when she was in the Tombs anyway. Just little whispers that were almost impossible for someone to hear and that she was never quite sure made it out of her head. Oliver took off her Ski Sun Valley! hoodie and the Brooks pajama bottoms and threw them in the hamper. She panicked. The shower. Just the thought of it scared her. It made her feel claustrophobic and she didn't even have the energy to put down a bathmat. The two-step process of shampoo/conditioner was overwhelming. Oliver left the room and returned wearing bathing trunks with pink turtles on them.

Oliver slowly led Althea into the shower. He turned the water on, checked to make sure it was comfortably warm, and began gently soaping her back, arms, and breasts with her favorite soap that smelled like lavender. He did her legs, rear, between her legs, stomach. He washed her hair twice, rinsed, and then added conditioner, actually waiting a minute so it would have time to soak in.

When she was at last clean, he shaved her legs, remembering to get her knees, her toes, and around her anklebones. After wrapping her in a white fluffy towel and drying himself, Ollie went back into the bedroom. She knew he was going to pick out some clothes for her to wear to the hospital and then pack for her, like he always did. She took a few breaths before heading in behind him. Even with Oliver's help, the whole process seemed overwhelming.

They always used the same bag for the hospital. It was a purple canvas T. Anthony duffle with her initials on it, AJW. Purple was her favorite color. Oliver always had a purple hue in every Spectacle line just for her. She watched as Oliver packed the purple bag. She had managed somehow (had Suzanne helped her?) to get the clothes on but not to brush her teeth or her hair or put on deodorant. The elastic waist of the skirt dug into her skin, and the T-shirt was just a little too tight. She was dying to go into the hamper and pull out the Ski Sun Valley! hoodie, but she couldn't take everything off again.

All the clothes Oliver packed were baggy and soft. Someone might have thought she had a special wardrobe just for her inpatient stays, but Althea dressed this way in her normal life too. She liked flowy skirts in fabrics like velvet or cashmere or crushed silk; she hoped they made people think she was ethereal, sensual, spiritual. Of course, she was none of these. She was dark, intense, and creatively brilliant. Like her photographs. She did work between breakdowns. Had had a few shows, gotten a few reviews, sold a few things. Successful by art-world standards. She didn't make a lot of money doing it, but she told herself that wasn't the point. Being a photographer made her feel like a grownup. More important, it served as evidence that she wasn't always ill.

Oliver didn't really approve; he thought she should be doing something more soothing. He worried her work might be a trigger. After all, her themes tended toward sexuality. Fertility. Fantasy viewed through poststructuralist, feminist, or whatever other academic theory had inspired her that period. Most people couldn't see past the naked bodies and thought her work was just pornographic, obscene. But Althea didn't care.

Oliver went into the bathroom and Althea watched him as he packed the toiletries. A purple toothbrush and travel-size Crest. Travel-size Finesse shampoo and conditioner. Brush. Deodorant. Soap and lemon body scrub. They were all new. Kept under the sink. He said that it was good to have backups for those kinds of things because you never knew, but she did know. It was for trips like these.

Ollie stopped packing her clothes and she thought of what he hadn't put in, the contraband he knew not to take. No headphones. (She could hang herself, they said. Really? How would that work? The belt hadn't.) No computers. (She wasn't sure why. To keep you from Googling obscure ways to hurt yourself?) No meds. (They had them there. They were like a hotel with stocked minibars.) But Oliver knew all the rules by now. They were straightforward and immutable, like getting through the TSA. But New York–Presbyterian wasn't hunting down terrorists, protecting the homeland from stealth attacks. 

They knew she was the enemy, and the target was herself.

So Oliver packed two down pillows. A cashmere throw. Quilted slippers. When he finished, he zipped the duffle and checked for the luggage tag, like the bag might actually get lost on some airport carousel, like she really was flying somewhere, maybe going to Canyon Ranch for ten days. He organized the change on his dresser by denomination while watching CNBC, then took the dry cleaner's plastic off his shirts, which both soothed and unsettled her. She had tried to hang herself a few hours ago, but Oliver was unruffled. She was sure he would go back to work after she was situated, then go for a run when he got home, maybe meet friends for drinks later. Life went on.

Finally, it was time. As she followed Oliver out of the bedroom, she saw her olive army rucksack that held her Canon, wallet, keys, iPhone, and iPad sitting on the chair by her bed. The bag she took everywhere, even to some of the cocktail parties Oliver dragged her to. She hadn't carried it for months. Of course not. Its hibernation had foreshadowed the appearance of the fucking purple duffle.

They walked into the living room. Suzanne was standing by the door wearing jeans and a teal wool sweater that had pilled. Althea could tell that the girl was struggling. Oliver had warned her when she took the job that this might happen, and Suzanne had nodded, No problem, but now it seemed she was thinking it kinda was.

Ollie went over and put his hand on Suzanne's shoulder, squeezed it, then smiled at her. Ollie said something, but Althea was too agitated to hear what it was. She was desperate now to get to the elevator, didn't want to have to touch Suzanne, didn't want to talk to her about Clem, to try to seem concerned about how her daughter would get through the next ten (or more) days without her. But Ollie read Althea's I need to go now look, opened the door to the foyer, and gently walked her out. She put her head on his shoulder as they rode down to the first floor, and for the first time in what must have been an eternity, Althea felt something close to relief. 

Excerpted from IF YOU LEFT © 2016 by Ashley Prentice Norton. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Ashley Prentice Norton is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel The Chocolate Money, and a graduate of Exeter, Georgetown, and the creative writing program at New York University. She lives in New York with her husband and three children.

For more information visit his website at http://www.ashleyprenticenorton.com and connect with her on Facebook.


Now you can win a print copy of If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton.  Thanks to FSB Associates, I have one print copy to giveaway to one lucky winner.

Just a few simple rules...

1) You must fill out the rafflecopter form below.

2) Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old

3) US Residents Only

4) For one extra entry: Tweet about this giveaway.

5) For one extra entry: Tell us why you'd like to win this book.

6) For one extra entry:  Follow this blog...old followers, too!  Just let us know how you follow and under what name.

7) For one extra entry: Follow me on Twitter.

8) For one extra entry: Follow or friend me on Goodreads

No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited.

The giveaway begins on June 14th (midnight est) and ends on June 21st (midnight est).

The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter. The winner will be notified by email and has 48 hours to respond, otherwise a new winner will be chosen. I will announce the winner here on my blog.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. This sounds like a good summer beach read—thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  2. I've been reading raves about by his book.Sounds like a perfect summer read,

  3. This book sounds really interesting! Sounds like a great book to read by the pool! Thanks for the chance!

  4. This sounds like a great book.

  5. I want to win this book because I am always looking for new authors and their books. From your blog, my interest is perked and will be checking out Ashley Prentice Norton's books. robeader53@yahoo.com

  6. I can no longer read the print books so I enter very few giveaways now.

  7. I liked the excerpt. Sounds like a good read.

  8. I always find the best reads here. This sounds so intense but I want to know more after the excerpt. Thanks for another great giveaway.

  9. This novel sounds intriguing. The mother and her relationship with the daughter and her problems are compelling.

  10. Sounds like an interesting and intriguing read plus this is a
    new author to me.
    Carol Smith

  11. This doesn't sound like a beach read to me; it's far too serious. I understand the issues related to depression and this book really seems to grasp them. I'd love to read this and read how the author portrays the daughter's response to her mother's constant depression, absence, and so forth, as well as about the husband's changed behavior. From the brief excerpt, I'm already hooked.

  12. Sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for the giveaway.

  13. If you left sounds like a fun read ♡ I would enjoy this book. Thank you

  14. Thanks for offering this! I love finding new books to read!!

  15. I loved that excerpt! I was drawn in right from the beginning. This sounds like a good read.

  16. Definitely on my TBR list...love family stories have lots of kids and grandkids of my own.

  17. I would like to read it because it sounds like a fun, and different kind of book than I usually read. Thanks for this chance.


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