Stay – Book Review

The wedding was perfect, except for two things. The satin bridesmaids’ gowns that were ordered in deep, rich cinnamon showed up two days before the wedding and were bright Halloween pumpkin. And instead of standing across from the groom, beaming, I was standing across from his first cousin, Norman, smiling a hollow smile like a jack-o’-lantern. – from Stay, page 3 –

Savannah “Van” Leone finds herself a maid of honor in her best friend Janie’s wedding, but instead of celebrating, Van is mourning because Janie’s new husband is the man who Van has been secretly in love with for years. After the wedding, Van retreats to her condo and gets steadily drunk on vodka and cool-aid drinks while watching re-runs of Rin Tin Tin. In her alcohol haze, she has a sudden insight into what she needs in her life.

That’s what I was missing. That’s what I needed. Rin Tin Tin wouldn’t leave me for thin thighs and an aristocratic nose. Rin Tin Tin would be a loyal friend. – from Stay, page 55 –

Impulsively, she sends her credit card number out into cyberspace and purchases a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder in Slovakia. When her Slovakian canine arrives, looking more like a full grown dog than a puppy, Van names him Joe. Van takes Joe to his first veterinarian appointment, and discovers that not only does her new dog have a really nice temperament, but so does the veterinarian named Alex. What follows is a hilarious and heart-warming story about the power of animals to heal emotional wounds and help us move forward after loss.

A novel with a German Shepherd at center stage was a good choice for me. I have had the breed in my life for more than twenty-five years, and have experienced first hand their loyalty, love and quirky personalities. Allie Larkin also lives with two German Shepherds (her big boy Argo graces the cover of Stay), and she captures the joys and challenges of bringing a large breed dog into one’s home. But more importantly, she demonstrates how animals, especially dogs, can heal our deepest wounds.

I loved the character of Van – a young woman who has recently lost her mother to cancer and is trying to find her place in the world. Van is smart, funny, and seems to find herself embroiled in outrageous situations on a daily basis. Her immediate love for Joe resonated with my own feelings toward the dogs I have had in my life.

In Stay, Larkin explores women’s friendships (with all the drama, ambivalence, and support they bring), along with love, loss and identity. Her characters are real and genuine, and Larkin writes with an honesty which is refreshing. Although the plot is similar to other books in the women’s fiction genre (girl loses boy, girl finds boy, girl loses boy again, etc… you get the idea), it succeeds because of the strength of the novel’s characters. Larkin is as authentic as her characters,  and clearly knows how to spin a plot to pull the reader in. I loved watching Van work through her emotions with Joe at her side.

Stay is an enjoyable and well written debut novel which will appeal to those readers who love women’s fiction, and who have experienced the unconditional love of a dog. I know I will be watching for Larkin’s work in the future.

Highly recommended.

*FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

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  1. I had not heard of this one. Thank you!

    • Molly on July 17, 2010 at 13:39

    I tend to not be a fan of women’s fiction, but I simply cannot say no to a great story that showcases the unconditional love of a dog. This will definitely go on the TBR list! Thanks for the introduction 🙂

  2. I think I’ve seen a few other reviews of this one, but yours has sold me on it! It’s been six months without Gypsy, and I may have to make do with fictional dogs for a while longer. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the review, since The Art of Racing in the Rain I’ve started reading books dealing with pets again. After reading Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows when I was young I avoided them like the plague for years.

    • Wendy on July 17, 2010 at 19:55

    Beth: You’re welcome 🙂

    Molly: I can’t resist books with good dog characters – and I loved Joe…he is awesome 🙂

    Florinda: This is such a happy dog book…I’m sure your missing Gypsy; I know that feeling 🙁

    Shawnee: Well unlike all those books you mentioned, this one is a HAPPY, feel good dog book (Joe is alive and well at the end!!) Hope you’ll like it.

    • Serena on July 20, 2010 at 06:31

    I haven’t seen reviews of this one, though I think I spied it in your MM. You know I can’t resist those dog covers.

  4. This may be a tired plot, but throw in a lovable, loyal dog and I’m there!

    Completely off topic–I was telling Rod where you live and he said you must know of Dunsmuir (sp?). It’s his favorite little town in CA.

    • Wendy on July 26, 2010 at 06:35

    Serena: I’m surprised I haven’t seen many reviews on this one either…

    Les: I agree! YES, I know Dunsmuir…great little town. It is not too far north of us and if I go to Mount Shasta, I always drive through Dunsmuir just for the atmosphere. Obviously Rod has good taste 🙂

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