This intimate collection of essays explores marriage, motherhood, longing, and ambition. Acclaimed memoirist Kelly McMasters gives the reader a uniquely clear lens into the pressures upon an artist's life and the deterioration of her marriage. This collection asks: what are the limits of self-expression? What makes up the places that we call home?
A memoir in intimate essays navigating marriage and motherhood, art and ambition, grief and nostalgia, and the elusive concept of home.
Kelly McMasters found herself in her midthirties living her fantasy: she’d moved with her husband, a painter, from New York City to rural Pennsylvania, where their children roamed idyllic acres in rainboots and diapers. The pastoral landscape and the bookshop they opened were restorative at first, for her and her marriage. But soon, she was quietly plotting her escape.
In The Leaving Season, McMasters chronicles the heady rush of falling in love and carving out a life in the city, the slow dissolution of her relationship in an isolated farmhouse, and the complexities of making a new home for herself and her children as a single parent. She delves into the tricky and often devastating balance between seeing and being seen; loss and longing; desire and doubt; and the paradox of leaving what you love in order to survive.
Whether considering masculinity in the countryside through the life of a freemartin calf, the vulnerability of new motherhood in the wake of a car crash, or the power of community pulsing through an independent bookshop, The Leaving Season finds in every ending a new beginning.
About the Author
Kelly McMasters is the author of The Leaving Season and Welcome to Shirley, an Orion Book Award finalist, and coeditor of the anthologies Wanting: Women Writing About Desire and This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post Magazine, and the Paris Review Daily. A former bookshop owner, she teaches at Hofstra University and lives in New York.
[McMasters] rhapsodically renders the experience of living at one with the natural world… A frank, introspective memoir of divorce, creativity, and the sacrifices of motherhood. — Kirkus Reviews
A wise, honest, and completely absorbing memoir of marriage and motherhood that is particular in the details but universal in a way that will resonate with many readers. — Booklist
McMasters's masterful, moving memoir of her journey from the city to the country to the suburbs makes an excellent case for taking the time to figure [out who you are], no matter how frightening it seems. — BookPage
McMasters’ writing shares some of its DNA with Leslie Jamison and Rebecca Solnit... The Leaving Season is a candid, often wrenching account of a relationship’s slow, inexorable crumbling and a survivor’s attempt to climb from the ruin and build a new life. Kelly McMasters is a graceful, fluid writer, and though the subject matter of her memoir is anything but easy, the rewards of sharing her company on the page are undeniable.
In her gorgeously written memoir, Kelly McMasters navigates through—and ultimately out of—the very real yet unmappable space that a marriage occupies. Her story is one of a kind and yet pieces feel familiar: the gradual estrangement, the power imbalances, the anguish around the decision to stay or go, and the surprising discovery that, as a single mother, ‘the load felt lighter, the house brighter.’ This book, written by a complete stranger, made me feel a sense of community. What a profound gift. — Maggie Smith, author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful
A profound and beautiful book.… Never have I encountered a memoir that explores motherhood and marriage with such warmth, intimacy, and wisdom. This is a book that will forever change the way you see your world—and yourself. If you loved Cheryl Strayed’s Wild or Claire Dederer’s Love and Trouble, you must read The Leaving Season immediately.
— Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year
I tore through The Leaving Season as though I was on fire and had to finish reading it before I could reach a bucket of water. Kelly McMasters lays bare the vast, unchartable difference between the way things look from the outside and the experience of being inside a marriage, a painting, a place, a home. Anyone who has ever had to step outside of a picture in order to see it clearly will recognize the grief and triumph of her choices.
— Gina Frangello, author of Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason
The Leaving Season is an astoundingly gorgeous memoir of life and love and leaving. With devastating insight, Kelly McMasters paints a delicate portrait of love and home and what happens when it all falls apart. The Leaving Season is about how endings are beginnings and beginnings are things of beauty. With an eye for detail and empathetic and deeply human portraits of the communities she inhabits, McMasters has created a soul-deep work of aching beauty and stubborn hope. Written with lush prose and an expansive heart, both gentle and gut-wrenching, beautiful and profound, The Leaving Season is a work of wonder.
— Lyz Lenz, author of Belabored
Heart-wrenching and nuanced.… Kelly McMasters is a brave memoirist, walking us on a tightrope through the loss of a job, a city, a marriage, a bookstore, a farmhouse, and her interior life as she gains children, community, fiscal security, wisdom, and independence. She shows us how when our dreams unravel, we may restitch them anew. This is a book of mourning and its opposite—a hallelujah. — Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion