Please Release Me, Let Me Go
Noon Key Productions LLC, 2014
Reviewed by Ashley Devick
In the midst of the hustle and the bustle of daily life, it’s easy to let the days, weeks and even years pass by, becoming inured to a state in which unhappiness has taken hold. Odds are, as is the case with Release’s heroine Mandelyn, you don’t even know how you got there. Mandelyn has an admirable career, two rescue pitbulls, a handsome husband and a love that’s worth saving. But their fortitude as a couple is tested after tragedy makes its way into their marriage. Unable to come up for air, their relationship gradually starts to crumble. Then, Mandelyn’s life reaches a breaking point—something drastic happens that brings her back to reality.
Everyone knows how it feels when you’re caught. Flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. A teacher’s tap on the shoulder. Mom or Dad hollering from the porch. As I crossed my threshold, nothing in my home felt level or square. The parallel and perpendicular lines of tables and picture frames, of banisters and stair treads all felt askew. Our dogs didn’t meet me at the door. The light was all wrong, and my vision wavered at the periphery. Sleet pelted against the window, yet the room felt silent.
And there he was, with my laptop open, the screen facing me. Henry sat motionless, facing away. “Where have you been?” he rasped without turning around.
“The storm, traffic,” I said. The drive from Chicago took more than three hours—a distance that rarely took a third of that in good weather. He looked my way. His eyes were dead and forlorn. “Mandelyn, where have you been? Come and tell me,” he said, patting the cushion beside him.
I shed my long black parka over the railing and my bags at the foot of the steps, then I circled the sofa to sit beside him. “Where are Frank and Lloyd?” I asked, but as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I remembered. “Oh, shit. Day care.”
Unphased, he continued. “I had to use your computer. I caught an early train to avoid the crowds. I didn’t want to haul an ice-crusted backpack through Ogilvie. I needed to work, but I couldn’t find the tablet.”
“I have it,” I said, beginning to rise, but he stopped me with his right hand over mine.
“What is CVC, who is Morgan, and, one more time, Where. Have. You. Been?”
In the absence of communication, Mandelyn’s journey begins.
Release, by newcomer Hope Russell Nunki, is a poignant story about a woman who decides to stop being trapped in the space between empty words and lack of passion, and find out why complacency has taken the reins in her life. Three years have passed since the event that caused the couple so much pain. Something had to give. But to move forward and forgive herself, Mandelyn has to allow herself to be set free and let passion rule, and readers are brought along for the ride. It’s as though we are hearing the best parts of a profound conversation.
“I have to release you. Go. Find yourself. See if something or someone—in your past or in your future—holds the keys to your happiness. Maybe you’ll find what you need somewhere inside you. If you don’t live this life fully, Mandelyn, it won’t be on my account. I think you know I love you, but if the character of my love doesn’t fulfill you, I don’t have anything else to offer.”
Release captures a woman’s experience coming to terms with how her past has shaped her present, while also nudging readers into evaluating their own relationships. Written in beautiful, thoughtful prose, the novel reminds us to slow down and ponder the roles we allow people to play in our lives; that we are never too complete to seek new answers. After all, there is no relationship more complicated than the one we have with ourselves.
Ashley K. Devick is a professional writer, editor and business owner based in Chicago. When she’s not blogging about business and bridesmaids, she is writing all things real estate and design for Splash Home with the Chicago Sun-Times. She has a masters degree in journalism from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. For more information from a constantly updated website, please visit ashleydevick.com.