Trying to decide what to read in the run up to something that you're strangely looking forward to for the sorting out aspect yet simultaneously dreading, leaves a real dilemma of choices. I'd probably be best staying well away from anything traumatic or hospital-y, stick to nice comforting, happy, jolly reading that would bathe my sub-sub-conscious in warm soothing waters ready for that visit under anaesthesia.
So please don't ask me why I picked up If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
But how glad I am that I did.
I read some of the publicity blurb beforehand...children's book... sensational and hotly contested rights auction...sold in eighteen countries... feature film rights acquired by the company that have produced Twilight and same director already signed up. You and I both know we've been disappointed by such triumphant fanfares in the past so my hopes weren't that high.
I didn't read all the information that came in the press release and I am so delighted I didn't. If you feel up to the ride and can possibly just ignore any plot details you hear about this book and read it 'cold' you may well have a similar and untainted reading experience to mine. The cover details very cleverly don't give too much away either so I had no idea what was about to happen and this added hugely to the impact of a book that is being lauded as another...well I'm not going to tell you that either because that would also give everything away, but it is and I think actually better than...
I'll give you the merest hint of a plot. Mia is the seventeen-year old daughter of hippy rock dude parents who've had to shrug off the trappings of that life to settle down into parenthood; thankfully they only shrug off the outward visible signs because the inward signs suggest they are just the same free-spirited beings they ever were. It all comes as quite a surprise when Mia shuns the rock world for the classical, the cello and an application to study at the Juilliard in New York.
That's all I'm going to tell you and I can see I'm painting myself into a corner here, not leaving that much to say beyond the fact that the meeting I had with Mia, her parents and her younger brother Teddy and her bigger 'family' rates as one of those exceptional reading experiences of recent months and yet again I was shamelessly blinking away the tears by the end.
If I Stay should be sad but it's not, I went through the mill a bit as I read but closed the book filled with optimism and a sense of real old fashioned yet unsentimental comfort and joy. If you read elsewhere that it is a
' gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming novel about the power of love and loss,'
then believe it, because it is indeed that and some.
Reading more about New York-based Gayle Forman (who I see from her blog is book touring in the UK this week, I don't usually plan things this well) I was interested to see that this book evolved from real-life events which struck close to home, allowing her to find a voice for her emotions, a chance to consider some of the choices that become available when life bowls you that great big googly. Building resilience can be a slow and difficult process but an essential one if you're going to be able to withstand the next knock and the one after that, writing it all down often such a useful way through the mire.
I've tried desperately hard to give nothing away when actually there is so much more I want to say about If I Stay, the writing, the voice, the events and just how astutely Gayle Forman constructs this book by... and how by using...and the characters who come to life when...and the whole wonderfully explored question of what makes a family and...but I've stopped myself because I'm desperate for anyone who reads this post and then decides to chance this book to be able to approach If I Stay just as I did, with no real clue about what was coming next.
If someone tries to tell you any more about it just do that la-la-la and stop up your ears thing.
I'd also then have to urge you not to Google it either because there are some reviews out there that sadly tell all down to every last plot detail. Just read this book before the hype machine cranks up if you possibly can, get it from the library, or nip out and meet Gayle Forman if she's coming to a bookshop near you, and please could you say hi and thank her for a great book from me.
I can at least help out three of you anyway, names in comments because there are three copies of If I Stay by Gayle Forman ready and waiting and no messing about dressing up, Rocky will choose the winners very quickly and get the books dispatched from the publishers in double quick time, hopefully before the beans are spilt and the magic is spoilt, then once you've read it you'll just have to pledge to keep the If I Stay secrets too.