Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

I read this a couple of years back at the end of the year and am just now writing a review for it since listening to the audiobook version. This will be a brief review/summary because I’m reacting to the overarching story itself. “And We Stay” is a difficult book to read (and rate, to be honest with you). It touches on quite a few sensitive topics, from suicide to depression to issues regarding teen pregnancy and abortion. Emily Bean is a character I followed well throughout the narrative – having moved from her old school and home into a new boarding school and adjusting to life there while thinking back to the events that lead her there in the first place. It switches between past and present (well, the present being 1995), though I found the transitions smooth and unemcumbered, and it’s told in third person present tense (which in longer narratives would probably bother me, but since this was such a short read, I thought it was fine. Plus the audiobook translation ended up being really, really well done).

Poetry is one of my first loves in writing, so I actually loved the poetry incorporation and the chance to learn a bit about Emily Dickinson’s life in grief parallels made with Emily Bean’s character. Emily Bean is a young woman who’s searching for her identity, so it would make sense that she’s trying to find something to connect to in the scheme of this story, between the poems she writes and the life of Emily Dickinson. On a psychological level, it makes sense that she’s finding something to hold on to when it feels like she doesn’t have an identity between the bouts of grief brought on by her experiences and trauma. I did like that Emily found other connections, including her relationship with K.T., that were showcased in the book.

But this book did hurt to read because of what happens to Emily, and there’s – I feel – a fair handling and responsibility of address in the sensitive topics it chooses to showcase in Emily’s experience. But I think what made the narrative stand out in my mind ultimately was the gradual coming to terms and unveiling of it all, if even in such a brief narrative and in a symbolic way.

This narrative may be a hit or miss given the way it chooses to tell Emily’s story, but I thought it was well worth the read.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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