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The Girl She Left Behind    by Karen Brichoux order for
Girl She Left Behind
by Karen Brichoux
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 2005 (2005)
*   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Katherine 'Kat' Earle makes a sudden decision to return home to the small town of Silver Creek, Montana. She literally abandons her husband, Stephen, leaving him at a gas station in Los Angeles. Stephen, a musician, is not abusive and they appear to love one another, but Kat's life no longer melds with his and so she rids herself of him. Kat has a history of abandoning people. She left Silver Creek after high school graduation without telling anyone. Stephen was Kat's ticket out of town and now she has left him, ostensibly to return home to find herself although it is not clear what exactly she is seeking.

Kat has a duck and run mentality, tending to act first and then see where the chips fall. Instead of returning to the home of great aunt Eva who raised her, Kat checks into a motel room where the owner allows her to keep her cat, Miss Kitty. She cleans rooms at the hotel and secures a job as a barmaid at The Watering Hole, owned by a woman named Lil (bar patrons, Thad and Lyle, become sidekicks and secondary characters). While Kat has returned home, she cannot bear to live in Eva's house until her Uncle Charles informs her that her great aunt is terminally ill. An expected sequence of events unfolds. When Eva dies, Kat moves into her home, and settles back into her roots. She cautiously befriends a neighbor and runs into people she grew up with. Kat is not happy to see most of them, and her relationships center on her working life. When a love interest appears in Silver Creek, she is forced to decide whether she will be her new persona or remain 'the girl she left behind'.

While The Girl She Left Behind has potential and the writing is thoughtful and even soulful, I had difficulty becoming engrossed in it. The plot is slow-moving and Kat's sullen and self-centered nature becomes tiresome. Clearly, it is a 24-hour-a-day job for Kat to be Kat, which had me yawning after a few chapters. Animal lovers will enjoy numerous anthropomorphic references to Miss Kitty and to Eva's dog Pearl. Fans of Elizabeth Berg (a favorite of mine) may be intrigued by this novel but will find it lacks the oomph of a fully satisfying read.

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