May 25, 2017


Written by Katherine Lawrence
Coteau Books
128 pp.
Ages 9+
April 2017

Stay is a simple middle-grade novel in its length, its form and its story.  But within those few pages and free verse form is a powerful story of a family in transition and a young girl’s need to make a family from its pieces, adopting a few more bits as required.

With her dead twin brother Billy as her sounding board,

My twin is buried in a wooden box
lined with white silk
soft as dandelion fluff, the stuff I blow
to the wind, to you,
(pg. 1)

pre-teen Millie attempts to survive the “family squalls” that have sent her father first to the basement and then to his own apartment. After helping to rescue a starving dog, Millie’s desperate longing for a dog becomes an obsession that pervades her days and nights.

Is love like a tree leaf that browns and drops to the ground? If I had a dog, I would love my puppy evergreen. (pg. 30)

But the two-residences situation is a stumbling block to getting a dog–Dad’s building has a no-animals policy and Mum refuses to be responsible when Millie and her older sister Tara are away–as well as to the copacetic custody of the girls, especially after Mom goes off on a weekend with her new love interest and Dad forgets it’s his weekend with his daughters.  Though Millie is convinced she will be saddled with a “companion named Baggage” for the rest of her life, a chance encounter with the compassionate Mrs. Irene Tootoosis, who’d adopted the dog Millie and her friend had saved, and an unexpected cancer diagnosis brings the family together in a new configuration.

Three tents, two canoes, one pup
sounds like a family.
(pg. 115)

Though the plot of Stay is relatively straightforward, Katherine Lawrence’s writing is not.  An accomplished writer of several books of poetry for adults, Katherine Lawrence pens a novel in verse so profound and complex in its voice and subtle in its story that rereading Stay will be necessary to appreciate all the nuances.  She gives Millie the freedom to obsess about a dog, talk to her dead brother (and play soccer against his headstone), sneak reading of her mother’s cell phone texts, and  be a good friend, while still looking to reconstruct her family as it was or as it might be.  Stay may be a quick read but it’s one that should not be hurried.  As Millie might attest, staying with it is definitely the preferred option, though it might be a lesson that needs to be learned both by dogs and people.

(A version of this review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2017, June). [Review of the book Stay, by Katherine Lawrence]. Quill & Quire, 83 (5): 35.

No comments:

Post a Comment