Leaving Before It’s Over

Published May 5, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Leaving Before It’s Over by Jean Reynolds Page

Overview from www.bn.com: From the author of The Space Between Before and After comes a compelling novel that explores the true meaning of family.
When Roy Vines married his wife, Rosalind, he traded his family and his inheritance for love—a painful choice that has blessed them with years of joy nestled in rural North Carolina with their beautiful daughters, sixteen-year-old Lola and little Janie Ray.
But their happiness is threatened when Rosalind suddenly falls ill. Desperate to get her the help she needs, Roy does the one thing he swore he’d never do—turn to his heartless and bitter identical twin brother, Mont, for help.

My Review:

My book for this week brought a lot of questions to my mind. I don’t mean to say that the book left anything unresolved or in dispute, at least not as far as the plot was concerned. I mean that I got my thinking in more detail about something I’d never thought about– identical twins.

In this story, two identical twins seem to be anything but identical. Sure they look the same, and in some ways even their demeanors are the same but that is where the similarities end. The main character, Roy, in many ways discovers that his twin brother gives new meaning to the phrase “evil twin.”

One day Roy makes the hard choice to go back to his estranged parents and the afore-mentioned brother in Virginia to beg for money for his wife who is sick with some kind of blood-related condition. In the middle of his visit he encounters the son he is thought to have fathered with an ex-wife. When that son, a 17-year-old named Luke, gets busted with drugs, his brother Mont uses Roy’s desperation as a chance to get Luke out of the way and keep him from ruining Mont’s chances at a run for senate.

Roy reluctantly accepts the offer but is worried about how it might impact his current wife and two daughters. Luke, however, earns a place in their hearts rather quickly. He finds that the man that he thinks of as his biological father is not who he thinks he is. But what Luke doesn’t know is that Roy isn’t his father and the man who is,never claimed him as his own.

Roy is determined to protect Luke from that knowledge after he sees that the kid has a good heart. He soon finds that he is willing to do anything to prevent Luke from finding out the truth regardless of the cost to him and his family. While Luke may not be the son of his blood, he is the son of his heart. He is, perhaps, the son that Roy always wanted but could never have.

Since Luke’s biological father seemed to be the main issue that the story was centered around, I started thinking about that. It made me wonder, if two identical twins were thought to have fathered a child, is there a way to determine conclusively which one actually did? I did some research on it and discovered that the answer is no. They have the same DNA so therefore it is impossible to determine which one is the real father.

It turns out that I needn’t have bothered to research this issue. At the back of the book the author answers this question along with others that readers may have about this and many other medical conditions that feature in this story. I thought this was a nice touch. It seems that other readers had these questions as well.

But beyond the questions, it was a great story. I guess I would call it a coming of age story as well as family drama, though I think the coming of age aspect of it might apply to all of the characters and not just the teenage ones.

I liked the character of Roy. He was very down-to-earth and though he was what many people might consider “religious” he seemed to know that being a Christian was not merely going to church or following the rules. He lived his faith through his kindness to his fellow-man and his later devotion to his family. He built a life with his second wife Rosalind that exemplified that faith too though he (and his wife) refused to excuse their own actions that resulted in the break-up of Roy’s first marriage.

Roy’s parents, in contrast, are everything that Christianity shouldn’t be. They are demanding and judgemental, making Mont the favorite of the twins and blaming Roy for abandoning Luke when they knew all along that Luke was not his son.

I was glad that this book had both sets of characters and didn’t just portray all Christians as being heartless and judgemental the ways some other stories I read have done. The truth is that there are hypocrites and legalist in both the secular and the religious world. Those with the good hearts always rise to the top though. And, in the fictional world at least, they are always rewarded for their goodness.

I also appreciated that although there were a few things that I would have prefered that the author leave out of the story (such as some profanity), on the whole it was entertaining without being smutty. Even Roy’s affair ends up being mere attraction to the woman who became his second wife as they never acted on anything. True, he did divorce his first wife to be with Rosalind, but neither of them excused their behavior either.

I think anyone who is interested in a good family drama will appreciate this story. Let me know if you agree, or even if you don’t.

Contains: profanity, drug references and some sexual situations

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