Some books click with a reader, some books just don't- unfortunately Stay With Me by Sandra Rodriguez Barron didn't click with me. Stay With Me is the story of five siblings, bound together by the fact that they were all discovered together on an abandoned boat off the cost of Puerto Rico. None of the siblings know if they are related by blood, but they have been adopted and raised by five different families across the United States. When one of the siblings, David, is diagnosed with an extremely severe and fast-moving brain tumour he brings the siblings together on a private island belonging to his ex-girlfriend's family. But David's motives are more complex than a simple family reunion, he's been having flashes of memory from before the siblings were found and he is looking to discover where they came from and who they really are."Memory, after all, is a place both the living and dead can inhabit."
Stay With Me caught my eye with its extremely intriguing premise- five children abandoned and not knowing where they came from- and the questions it raises. Unfortunately even with six main characters (the siblings plus David's ex) there just wasn't anyone in the book I could really relate to, they all lacked dimension. A lot of the dialogue felt unrealistic and I never got lost in the story, I never forgot that this was a book and not real. I feel like the book went to a certain level of depth when I expected more. Barron takes on big topics- the meaning of family, the meaning of life- but writes about them in a way that often verges on superficial. In contrast, there was excessive description in areas when I really didn't need it, for example talking about every little detail of Griswold island.
Where Barron does succeed is her ability to capture a unique landscape, and so the portion of the book I enjoyed the most was when it was taking place in Puerto Rico and the surrounding area. Even if I wasn't relating to the characters, I was enjoying the authentic setting she had placed them in. I was less appreciative of the back and forth switch between David's perspective and a third person view. I didn't really find anything gained from having the story told from the third person perspective, except at the point when David was unable to adequately express himself, and perhaps it would have been more powerful if Barron had left the transition to omnipresent narrator til then.
I was also completely uninterested in the potential romance between David's ex and his brother and I didn't think it connected well to the other themes in the novel. In comparison, one of David's sisters struggles with forming a real connection with her husband because of their childhood abandonment and her years in foster care, and although I felt that storyline could have been fleshed out better, at least I understood why it was there. Lastly, when Barron sorta/kinda/maybe tried to touch on the idea of incest and a relationship between the two siblings, who may or may not be biologically related, it simply felt awkward. Although I really loved the idea of the book, in the end everything tied up a bit too neatly to be realistic. Ultimately, Barron had a strong concept in Stay With Me, it just wasn't executed in a way I could fully appreciate. **
Number of Pages: 384 pages
Published: November 2010
This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.