Stay With Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr
When Leila’s much older sister, Rebecca, kills herself, it changes the lives of everyone who knew her, and many people who didn’t. But did anyone really know Rebecca, or just the face she showed them? This is just one of the questions that Leila can’t help but ask herself in the months after her sister’s death. Did she know Rebecca? Or did she only know Rebecca through her interactions with other people? Leila knows her father. She knew her father’s first wife, Janie, who died a while before Rebecca. But if she had really known Rebecca, if anyone had known Rebecca fully, wouldn’t they have been able to figure out Rebecca’s reason for doing what she did?
It’s for that reason that Leila is searching when she meets Eamon. At first he’s only a customer in the café where she once saw Rebecca with the mysterious T., a man she thinks might know something of the reason Rebecca had for committing suicide. Later, though, he becomes something much more.
Clare is Leila’s surviving older half-sister. Clare has her own life: a boyfriend, a career, and an apartment–suddenly one occupant short. Rebecca lived there, and now that Leila’s parents are moving to Poland for the year, she will move in with Clare. During this year, Clare and Raphael, their unrelated “cousin,” will become much, much more important in Leila’s life. She will get to know them, maybe in the way she never got to know Rebecca–the way she is still trying to get to know Rebecca, even after her death.
STAY WITH ME is a very powerful, moving story about love, loss, and life. It’s about the way life keeps going on, even after a tragedy. Since it takes place in New York, since Rebecca dies right after the attacks on the city in 2001, the characters are healing from their own personal tragedy, but also, along with everyone else in the city, from the attack on them all. That’s not the focus of the novel, but it’s definitely a part of it.
Garret Freymann-Weyr is brilliant at creating wonderful, three dimensional characters. I’ve read two of her previous novels (MY HEARTBEAT and WHEN I WAS OLDER), and that’s something that can be seen in all of her work. It’s a talent, and I was glad to see it shows just as much in STAY WITH ME as in the other two novels. We learn plenty, even about the characters only glimpsed in the novel. The character I felt I knew the least was Leila’s mother, but she was not really a part of this story. She hardly knew Rebecca, whose death is what sets off the whole story (though Leila chooses to start the telling of it with her visits to Janie, her father’s first wife). There are so many parts to this story, but Rebecca, her life and death, is what ties it all together so marvelously.
**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**