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How important are the decisions that we make almost thoughtlessly on a day-to-day basis? Sometimes they can have life-altering implications, and in this carefully crafted story about flawed characters, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows that heroism isn't necessarily made up of bold, brave actions, but rather of listening and sharing small moments.

STAY revolves around 14-year-old Lucas Painter. He explains, from some point in the future, that during the summer of 1969, his brother was in Vietnam, and he was trying to help his best friend, Connor. Both Lucas and Connor have less-than-ideal family lives. Connor's parents don't talk, and the silence in their home is deafening. Connor rarely leaves the house except to go to school because he is afraid of what might happen if he's not at home. He can't really explain why he feels that way, but it's something that Lucas accepts. Indeed, Lucas' home life isn't much better. Instead of silence, his folks are constantly yelling and screaming. Neither young man has loving, compassionate parents who care a bit about their children's lives. But Lucas and Connor, friends since the age of three, have each other.

"Although populated with individuals who don't know if they want to keep on living, STAY is an uplifting story about hope and the importance of being needed."

On the day that Lucas receives a letter from his brother in Vietnam, most of which has been redacted by military censors, he visits Connor. Connor has been sitting in his bedroom all day, not doing much of anything. He won't budge, so Lucas finally escapes this depressing atmosphere. He wanders into the woods behind the house, despite his mother telling him never to do that because he would get lost. Sure enough, he does. But eventually, he comes across a cabin in the middle of the woods and sees two huge dogs. Even though he knows it's the wrong thing to do, a frightened Lucas runs. And the dogs chase after him.

It is only after Lucas trips and falls that he comes to understand that the dogs are running with him. When he turns around to take them back home, he realizes that he enjoys running. So Lucas begins running with them --- until one day when they won't leave their cabin. They are unhappy and anxious, and Lucas finds out that their owner, Zoe Dinsmore, is in trouble. He ultimately saves her, and with that action, he ends up changing the lives of those around him.

Lucas learns a lot that summer about human nature, war, responsibility and life in general. While his life seems intolerable at times, he manages to accomplish more than most of us do in a lifetime. The end of the novel, narrated by Lucas 50 years later, gives readers closure. We learn if he ended up following Roy to Vietnam when he turned 18; what happened to Connor, Zoe and Roy; and how important dogs were for the rest of their lives. Plus, we get to see the man Lucas has become.

Although populated with individuals who don't know if they want to keep on living, STAY is an uplifting story about hope and the importance of being needed. It is about accepting others with all their foibles, dealing with consequences, believing in people, and just being there for those you love.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on December 20, 2019

by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  • Publication Date: December 3, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1542042402
  • ISBN-13: 9781542042406