If you have ever been in an unhealthy relationship, one that you knew in your bones was wrong but couldn’t get out of, Leigh Stein’s unflinchingly honest memoir about obsessive love, Land of Enchantment, will take you right back to that dark place.
And if you’ve never been there, this will be an eye opener for you.
Land of Enchantment
The story begins with a jolt. Leigh gets a call that her ex-boyfriend Jason has died in a motorcycle accident. He was 23.
While preparing to fly across the country for the funeral, she flashes back to the course of their torrid and toxic love affair, and from there the narrative alternates between the younger, inexperienced Leigh and the older one with the perspective that time and distance affords.
Leigh was in her early twenties when she met Jason, several years her junior. With the rugged looks and bad boy rough edges of James Dean, he instantly cast a spell over her. Smitten, she accepted his offer to take off for New Mexico on a romantic adventure, and in doing so leave the safety of her parents’ Chicago home. They agreed to stay six months. He would get a job and earn some money and she would devote the time to finishing her novel. Then they would move to LA where he would get an acting job.
That was the plan.
From the beginning, though, the signs of impending doom were there. Jason was magnetic, yes, but also critical and manipulative.
In beautiful, bleak New Mexico, the land of enchantment, Jason’s behavior became cruel and disturbingly erratic. Leigh was unhappy, isolated with no friends and no car. Jason seemed to care little about her feelings. Stung when he announced he was going to a party without her, Leigh decided that was the final straw. She scraped together the cash to fly back to Chicago.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, or the end of her relationship with Jason. She flew back to New Mexico to be with him the next day.
The cycle of fighting and breaking up and getting back together, a textbook case of an addictive relationship, continued when they were both back in Chicago. Leigh, in denial, made excuses for Jason’s bad behavior, even the instances of violence. Drugs and alcohol provided a means of self-medicating to get through the depression.
And then …
A friend in New York shared a tip about a job opening in New York. Leigh was terrified at the thought of applying. There were days when she couldn’t even get out of bed.
Did she leave? Could she leave? Did she go back?
You’ll have to read the book to find out.
My hope is that this deeply affecting, coming of age story will have a wide reach, especially to girls and young women in troubled relationships whose sense of worth is in the hands of an abuser. Whether physical or psychological, abuse will erode your self-esteem and steal your life. It never ends well.
And I wish I could reach back in time and share this book with 20 year-old me.
One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Land of Enchantment. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.
I received a copy of Land of Enchantment from Plume for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.