"[A] thoughtful and compelling elegy to a troubled man, a broken love, and a broken dream of the west."—Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams
An MSN Best Book of 2016
Set against the stark and surreal landscape of New Mexico, Land of Enchantment is a coming-of-age memoir about young love, obsession, and loss, and how a person can imprint a place in your mind forever.
When Leigh Stein received a call from an unknown number in July 2011, she let it go to voice mail, assuming it would be her ex-boyfriend Jason. Instead, the call was from his brother: Jason had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was twenty-three years old. She had seen him alive just a few weeks earlier.
Leigh first met Jason at an audition for a tragic play. He was nineteen and troubled and intensely magnetic, a dead ringer for James Dean. Leigh was twenty-two and living at home with her parents, trying to figure out what to do with her young adult life. Within months, they had fallen in love and moved to New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment,” a place neither of them had ever been. But what was supposed to be a romantic adventure quickly turned sinister, as Jason’s behavior went from playful and spontaneous to controlling and erratic, eventually escalating to violence. Now New Mexico was marked by isolation and the anxiety of how to leave a man she both loved and feared. Even once Leigh moved on to New York, throwing herself into her work, Jason and their time together haunted her.
Land of Enchantment lyrically explores the heartbreaking complexity of why the person hurting you the most can be impossible to leave. With searing honesty and cutting humor, Leigh wrestles with what made her fall in love with someone so destructive and how to grieve a man who wasn’t always good to her.
Novelist Stein (The Fallback Plan) is 22 at the onset of this disturbing and heartfelt memoir about an abusive relationship. The author meets Jason, an 18-year-old dead ringer for James Dean, at a theater audition in Chicago in 2007. Soon they are romantically enmeshed and on their way to New Mexico, "the land of enchantment," where they attempt to support each other's dreams his to eventually succeed as an actor, hers to write a novel. In chapters that alternate between the past and more recent years, Stein examines the relationship and its gradual dissolution, tragically ending with her lover's early death. Stein shares details of her ongoing struggle with depression and poor self-esteem, factors that play into her willingness to be manipulated and oppressed by the unpredictable and sometimes violent Jason, who also suffers from depression and manic outbursts. Long after the romance ends, Stein is haunted by memories, and she reveals the complicated emotional ties that make it difficult for a victim to break free. Stein's is a brave and poignant coming-of-age story.