105 Ways to Give a Book

You Say Lo-li-ta, I Say Lei-la

When I was nineteen I dated a man who was thirty. He was also the manager and part-owner of the hotel where I worked as a desk clerk for the summer. My parents seemed all right with it, which was surprising to me. I asked my mom why they weren’t upset, and she said that he seemed like a gentleman.

She was absolutely right. He was a gentleman. We enjoyed each other’s company, but he was never pushy. I was smart, funny, attractive, and he liked me. But I knew he liked the idea of me even more. He took me to bars and clubs where we could be seen together. He wanted to have some young girl on his arm, like an accessory. Certainly everyone thought we were sleeping together, but we weren’t. I already said that he was a gentleman.

I liked him because he was smart, funny, and attractive. I also liked the idea of him even more. I liked going to bars and clubs where no one questioned my legal drinking age, because everyone knew him. I liked being on the arm of someone that everyone knew. If it was icky that everyone thought we were sleeping together, I didn’t dwell on it. I knew that he was a player and I wasn’t going to lose myself to him, in any way.

He, of course, dropped me later that summer for someone less smart, less funny, who needed less of a gentleman.

Stay With MeThe most important part of the book Stay With Me is not the relationship of 17-year-old Leila and 31-year-old Eamon. But in some ways, maybe it is. Or maybe the theme of a book can be what resonates with you. Or maybe I haven’t gotten quite enough sleep to handle this book. Seventeen is just two years from nineteen, but it seems like such a huge span. High school to college. Just legal to acceptable. Lolita or L.A. Story. What a difference a number makes from her story to mine, or vice versa.

Garret Freymann-Weyr has written a book that is simultaneously about loss and gain. Leila loses her sister Rebecca to suicide. She gains a relationship with her other sister Clare when she lives with her for a year. She loses a relationship with her boyfriend and gains a relationship with an older man. In trying to learn more about the motives of her older sister’s suicide, she finds out how much can never really be known about anyone. In struggling to overcome her dyslexia, she learns how some people can just stop trying.

I had two problems with the book. One, was the use of the name Rebecca for the sister who killed herself. It kept in my mind du Maurier’s haunting Rebecca. Perhaps this was intentional, perhaps not, but I found it distracting. Also it gave me pause that the name of the main character, Leila, was so close to Lolita. Again, intentional or not, I found it distracting. My second problem was that I never understood the fascination with the lost hotels, and exactly what was lost about them in regards to this family. That said, I started this book at 2:00 a.m. and read until 3:00 a.m., so I may have missed something in that early morning hour of reading.

Overall, I loved the book and had to make myself stop thinking about it to start writing about it. Stay With Me is a complex, intense, book that leaves the reader to her/his own judgments about situations, characters, and stories. If it leaves one reflective about one’s own story — whether that be of loss, gain, sisters, boyfriends, struggles, accomplishments — then so much the better.

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