When Katherine Earle was in high school, all she wanted was to escape from her small Montana hometown of Silver Creek. She left at eighteen without a word to the great-aunt who raised her or to her best friend, Jen. Kat got married to Stephen, a musician, and moved with him to L.A. But even that adventure didn't turn out the way Kat expected, so she took off again, ending up three years later back in Silver Creek.
Kat knows it's time to face her family and friends, and to come to terms with the person she used to be. But she also needs to find her way to a settled future. She takes a job at a local bar, and the people there help her to re-define her life. Will the ones she hurt be able to forgive her? Is she ready to end her marriage or work things out?
The Girl She Left Behind has an incredible amount of potential that it never quite attains. The story of Kat's leaving and returning could have been handled in a straightforward manner, so that the reader actually understands the timeline. Instead, it's a muddy mess to figure out, and that needlessly overshadows the entire story. Kat isn't a very endearing character. Toward the end, she finally begins to stand up for herself and her beliefs, but most of the time, when the going gets tough, she runs away.
In The Girl She Left Behind, there are some intriguing themes about going home again and making things right, forging adult friendships out of childhood ones, and coming to terms with the past. If readers can sift through the extraneous and discover the core, this is an interesting and unique coming of age story.