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Leave of Absence

“Oliver knew deep in his heart that he would never, ever be better.”

In this insightful and evocative novel, Tanya J. Peterson delves deeply into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.
When Oliver Graham’s suicide attempt fails, he is admitted to Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. Unable to cope with the traumatic loss of his beloved wife and son, he finds a single thread of attachment to life in Penelope, a fellow patient wrestling with schizophrenia and its devastating impact on her once happy and successful life. They both struggle to discover a reason to live while Penelope’s fiancé William strives to convince her that she is worth loving. As Oliver and Penelope try to achieve emotional stability, face others who have been part of their lives, and function in the “real world,” they discover that human connection may be reason enough to go on.
Written with extraordinary perception into the thought processes of those grappling with mental illness, Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing.

ISBN-13: 978-1-59299-883-8  |  ISBN 10: 1-59299-883-6
Release Date: April 1, 2013 (Inkwater Press)
Retail Price: $17.95 (paperback); $3.99 (e-Book)
Available at:,,, iTunes Bookstore,, and Inkwater Books.


“…The author, a certified counselor, emphasizes the importance of human connection and creative endeavor in group therapy as a stimulus for recovery. Peterson succeeds in demystifying the world of psychiatric care and challenging the stigma that continues to surround mental health….A heartrending, realistic story about grief, depression and schizophrenia that finds positivity in the darkest of moments.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Read the full review here. 

“In her poignant portrayal of Oliver and Penelope, the author attempts to demystify two of the more common psychological maladies and to remind her readers of the humanity of their victims….Like Sylvia Nasar did in her book, A Beautiful Mind, Peterson propels her readers into Penelope’s mental anguish and reveals how the illness affects those who have to watch a loved one suffer….Sometimes in the absence of knowing we fill in the blanks with counter-productive images of the mentally ill. The author helps strip away the surface stereotypes associated with those who suffer from PSTD and schizophrenia to show the real people underneath.”   —The US Review of Books (John E. Roper)



Read the full review here.

“The characters are beautifully portrayed in that you can understand and feel their pain. Peterson has a gift for bringing a seemingly complex thought to life and replicating it in a way that the general public may understand. To describe the inner workings of a person who deals with schizophrenia is no easy task, yet Peterson does it flawlessly. She creates a world that you would not expect and simplifies it elegantly. Those who watch from a distance become a vital part to the person’s being and struggles. In a sordid way, she puts us all in the place of the suffering so that we may better understand how to approach what we cannot relate….The novel is a great way to peek inside the unknown. Peterson deals with the characteristics of each individual with perfection, all the while giving us a taste of true human suffering. If you enjoy novels that deepen your understanding and deal with the process of grieving, pick up Leave Absence today.”  —Portland Book Review

Read the full review here.

“Tanya J. Peterson’s ability to create vivid imagery with her words, while using strong storytelling to pull readers in, shines in Leave of Absence. The story tackles heavy topics of loss and mental illness through the characters Oliver and Penelope. But it doesn’t weigh you down because there’s a thread of hope running through each page. Society may label these people because of their mental illness, but Peterson humanizes the characters. And before you know it, you see Penolope and Oliver are more than their diagnosis. They’re two people, with genuine hearts, supporting each other through a rough time. They’re human.”  —Jeneé Darden, Web Content and PR Specialist, Host of Mental Health and Wellness Radio  P.E.E.R.S.  Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services

“Peterson’s novel is eye-opening and beautiful….The writing flows smoothly, and the depiction of scenes, particularly the dramatic meltdowns, are so detailed that the reader gets sucked in.  —Caroline Comeaux Lee, Psych Central

Read the full review here.

“I highly applaud Peterson for such a brilliant work. It is beautifully written –strong words that describe, portray, examine, and most importantly, show everything about the themes that need to be seen and understood by the reader.” — Ije Kanu, Literary Fiction Editor, Bella Online

Read the full review here.

“Few writers have been able to express so sensitively the variations of thought processes that assault patients who are suffering from degrees of mental illness. Peterson creates a solid novel here but she also opens doors of understanding so rarely provided for the general public. Highly recommended.”  —Grady Harp, Literary Aficionado

Read the full review here.

“I just finished a very heart warming and thought provoking book entitled, LEAVE OF ABSENCE. This book is a deeply authentic novel that is both deeply inspiring and insightful. As a teacher of psychology and abnormal psychology for over twenty five years, I wish I would have had this novel at hand to provide my students with such a beautiful story that promotes a very real understanding of depression and schizophrenia. What a valuable tool for teachers, students, and families! LEAVE OF ABSENCE is a well researched and constructed novel that depicts how mental illness impacts a human life and those surrounding them. Tanya Peterson has created characters who are authentic and provide the reader with a deeper empathetic understanding of the roots of mental illness. You will be touched and perhaps even shed a tear.”  —Dan Ripperger, high school psychology and literature teacher (retired)

“I read more for character development than plot, and though the plot of Leave of Absence is also interesting, what makes it shine are the nuanced portrayals of human beings stripped to their core by the collision of societal expectations of “normality” and their own aggrieved self-perceptions. Each character is both vulnerable and quietly resilient, battling against personal demons and the mind’s simple chemicals, and I was left feeling I’d lived within each character for a time and understood what people so superficially different than I must endure to even see themselves as equal to the rest of us.” —Charlene Martel of The Literary Word

“It was heartbreaking but not sentimental. I appreciated that approach. And its voice and style show an incredible degree of empathy. It’s a deceptively simple read, and as you reach further into each character you realize nothing about them is simple. Having experienced mental illness firsthand from people close to me, I wish I’d read this book before knowing them.”

“I’d highly suggest Leave of Absence to anyone interested in multilayered character development and who read for pleasure or for a greater understanding of those among us who are silently suffering and enduring.”  —John Sibley Williams, author of Controlled Hallucinations & editor of The Inflectionist Review

“I was extremely impressed with Leave of Absence. Ms. Peterson’s extraordinary understanding of and empathy for individuals struggling to cope with the challenges of mental illness is remarkable. Like other great novels dealing with this subject, Leave of Absence neither sugar-coats the problem nor leaves you with a “pat” happy ending. Instead the reader is left with a sense of hope but by no means certainty as to Oliver, Penelope, and William’s futures.”  —Linda Franklin

“I’m already recommending Leave of Absence to friends working in the social services or struggling with mental “disorders” themselves. Tanya J. Peterson is able to portray schizophrenia and depression in a way that is not only raw and realistic but hopeful. As a reader, you are bonded with the Penelope and Oliver who struggle and those who love them. There are no “quick-fixes” but the way the characters journey together leaves us with a sense that life is still meaningful in the midst of hardships and unexplainable struggle.”  —Emily Dueker

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Honors & Awards

Twenty-Four Shadows

Named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016



My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel

Named to Kirkus Reviews’ list of Best Books of 2014




U.S. Review of Books

Recommended by the US Review of Books: Nutshell & 24 Shadows


Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog

The Anxiety-Schmanxiety blog I write for won this award.


Losing Elizabeth

Recipient of the Storytellers Campfire Marble Book Award for being a “book which has made a significant difference in the world.”


Contact Tanya

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