Monday, 15 August 2011

Leaving The Hall Light On, by Madeline Sharples: A book I'll never ever forget.

Leaving the Hall Light OnLeaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This memoir pins you down and never lets go. There wasn't one moment where I wasn't thinking about Madeline's heartbreak, and Paul's suffering, and anticipating the time I could sit down and read it again in peace. You want to immerse yourself in total silence while reading this extraordinarily powerful story. I'm not sure why I felt this way. Perhaps it was a subconscious act of respect. Perhaps I felt as if Madeline, Paul, Bob and Ben, needed my undivided attention. Actually, I think that is the reason. It was as if I wasn't even reading, but watching the story unfold right before my very eyes. Who wants background noise when someone is pouring their heart out to you? I certainly don't.

I cried. Three times, in fact. The first time straight after the very first paragraph. The second time during one of Bob's (Madeline's husband) journal entries describing the scene of finding their son, Paul, dead, in a pool of blood, in their bath, throat and wrists slit. And the third time after reading a poem called "A Stone Called Son".

I don't think I can justifiably describe how I'm feeling about this book. Tears are welling up in my eyes as I'm writing this, trying to figure out how to express myself. My gosh, I'm a writer and I can't find the words to tell you how much I wish every single person on this planet would read this book.

Reasons to read this, off the top of my head:

  • Because it will teach you not to judge.
  • Because it will teach you how to behave around people who are grieving.
  • Because sometimes you need a reality check.
  • Because Madeline has written a book about one of the most difficult experiences in her life and it should be rewarded.
  • Because you want to. Believe me, you do. No matter how heartbreaking the content, you want to read it. You will become a better person afterward.

I tip my hat off to you, Madeline. You are a survivor. You are an inspiration. You make me proud to be a woman.

View all my reviews

What books have you read recently that have made you feel proud to be who you are?


  1. Well done for bringing her to our attention. We need this kind of literature.

  2. wow- it's a beautiful thing when a book can touch you like that and change your world. Thanks for introducing us to 'Leaving The Hall Light On' and Madeline- off to check it out!

  3. Everyone has such wonderful things to say about this book!

  4. It sounds like a book not to be missed. What I noticed when I lost my dear mother and husband so close together, everyone rallied round for a few weeks then ......nothing at all, just when you realised you are left totally alone the neighbours seemed to find it difficult to approach me, very strange but understandable.


  5. The Saskiad, by Brian Hall. Made me happy that my childhood was, you know, not fucked up. :)

  6. Thanks for the review. I should learn how to judge less.

  7. Thanks for the recommendation Jessica! Have a nice week!

  8. I'm always in awe of people who can write memoirs. The writing is so brave and genuine. This book sounds like one of those kinds of reads.

  9. Wow. After that review, how could I not read it? I love it when someone is that passionate about a book.
    And this is totally random but I feel I need to tell you: every time I go to your blog and see the freeze frame of the string bridge trailer, I think it is Liza Minelli.

  10. Thank you again and again, Jessica, for your wonderful words about my book and for your amazing support. You are helping me reach my goal of letting people know that it is possible to survive a mother's worst tragedy.
    Love, Madeline

  11. I just started reading the first chapter at your website, Madeline, and I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

  12. Thanks so much for Maine Character. I appreciate your visiting my website and reading the book sample.

    All best, Madeline

  13. Thanks for this great review, Jess. Another good book to read :)

  14. wow. I love that "A Stone Called Son." What a great title, but what a scary subject... Sounds intense. But thanks for the heads up!

    (and no wonder you've been in a funky mood! ;o) <3

  15. Great review, Jessica. I'm having a hard time reading it because it's uncanny the similarities between how Paul behaved and how my brother behaved after getting sick.

  16. Awesome. I can't wait to read it then. I loved being moved to tears. It is, without a doubt, one of life's most underrated experiences. Thanks for the recommendation!

  17. Sorry to know about your brother, Angela. How is he doing?


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris