If I Stay

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 8:38 AM

Rating: 4/5 stars

It was probably because of the snow.

If it weren't for the light dusting of snowfall in Oregon, school wouldn't have been closed, and Mia's parents wouldn't have taken the day off for a family outing. They wouldn't have all piled into the minivan together, little Teddy clamoring for control of the radio, everyone looking forward to a relaxing break and maybe dinner at the grandparent's house later. And if they hadn't been on that road, going around that corner at the same time as the truck --

They would all still be alive.

Instead, Mia is left standing over her mangled body, watching the paramedics re-inflate her lungs and hustle her into a helicopter. Gradually realizing that her parents are both dead. That Teddy is hurt, off in another hospital. That she herself is only clinging to life. And she has to decide: should she let go and cross over to whatever comes next? Or should she stay?

Beautifully and quietly presented, this book brings up the problems of love and choice in graceful ways; Mia will suffer loss no matter what she decides, and maybe there is no right answer or even one that will cause less pain. She faces her dilemma in a believable way, not immune to panic or helplessness at her situation, overwhelmed by the utter isolation during the most important decision of her life.

Somehow, this novel avoids schmaltz territory, and it gracefully weaves between Mia watching the unfolding drama in the hospital and remembering her life up until this point. It's been a good life, and since this isn't a Scrooge story, Mia knows it -- but she also understands that everything has shattered with the accident. If she stays, would it be worth it to try to pick up the pieces? If she goes, what -- and who -- will she be leaving behind?

A quiet novel with unexpected strength and moments of poetic beauty, particularly in the descriptions of music, this is an affirming story of human will, love, and the burdens of choices that we feel unprepared to make. Vibrant and human and refreshingly schmaltz-free.

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