The Girl You Left Behind

August 20, 2013

The Girl You Left Behind
By: Jojo Moyes
369 pages

I've been a fan of Jojo Moyes ever since reading, and loving, The Last Letter From Your Lover. Jojo Moyes writes compelling books that pull into the story line. Her latest is no exception. The Girl You Left Behind will transport you to 1916 during the German occupation. There you will follow the life of Sophia. You also travel to 2006 and see how life has been treating Liv. As you journey the stories of these two women, you will go all over the emotional map.

Sophia Lefevre 1916
Sophia and her siblings are struggling in their family's hotel during the German occupation. Le Coq Rouge has been a visiting spot for fellow villagers and friends alike, but things are about to change. Sophia's husband is off fighting, as is her sister's husband. As if that isn't difficult enough, Sophia is awoken one night to the news of her brother being beaten by German soldiers. 

Sophia is a gutsy woman. Knowing that hiding a piglet is a serious crime that could land them all in a camp, Sophia does the only thing she can do: she knocks the piglet unconscious, bundles it up in blankets, and passes it off as a sleeping infant. Did I mention she does this in front of German soldiers? While the plan works, the unwanted visitors don't leave without dropping some news: Le Coq Rouge will now be a dining place for German soldiers. Food will be delivered, and Sophia is expected to cook for her bitter enemies.

As she and her sister, Helene, have no choice but to follow these orders, Sophia does meet one soldier who seems to have a heart. The Kommandant, not only insists she take some of the food to feed her family, but he defends Helene's honor when a fellow soldiers makes an inappropriate pass at her. As you can imagine, Sophia struggles with finding a nice person dressed up as her sworn enemy. Her fellow villagers do, as well. It isn't long before they turn on Sophia.

Risking her very life, Sophia is prepared to do anything to guarantee the safe return of her husband, who is now known to be in a reprisal camp. She begs the Kommandant to free him. She's willing to give him the very painting he's always admired. She's even willing to give him herself. 

It isn't long after her return from the failed meeting that German soldiers arrive to take her. With her brother declaring she's getting what she deserves, and a few neighbors yelling obscenities, Sophia is positive she is being taken to her husband. She's positive the Kommandant kept his end of the bargain. Did he?

Liv 2006
Four years ago, Liv lost her husband. Money has now run out. She lives alone in the massive glass house her architect husband designed. It's as sparse as her life is. Friends have tried setting her up to no avail. Liv can't seem to get past her grief. However, everything changes on the anniversary of her husband's death.

With nowhere else to go, Liv goes to a gay bar. Her theory of being left alone turned out to be a good one. But all bets were off when it comes to her purse. A very drunk Liv finds her purse gone- along with her wallet, keys, everything. The bar owner has a brother, Paul, who's an ex-cop. Paul volunteers to see Liv home safely, but lets her crash at his house when she can't get home. 

Not knowing why, Liv tells Paul why she's so drunk. When he wipes smeared make-up from under her eye, Liv feels a charge. A charge she hasn't felt in years. Is she finally coming out of her grief? 

A twist in her life comes in the form of Paul. Paul now investigates lost things. His new case involves a painting stolen during World War I. A painting that hangs in Liv's house. How will this affect their futures? 

Jojo Moyes writes another gripping book. I warn you: it's not an upbeat book full of equal amounts joy and sorrow. The first half of the book is sad. Still, both stories hold that spark of hope and potential for the happy ending you long for. Jojo Moyes takes you all over the emotional map, but the story is one that won't leave you.


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