"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Title: Stay

Author: Nicola Griffith

The blurb on the back of this trade pb categorizes it as crime fiction, but this isn't a traditional mystery or suspense. The one book I've read previously by Griffith was science fiction. This one is more mainstream, focusing on loss, grief, and healing. Aud (rhymes with "shroud") Torvingen is skilled in the art of self-defense and a good offense. She's a woman who knows how to use her hands, both to restore a mountain cabin and to kill with those bare hands. At the start of the story, she's mourning her lover, Julia, who was murdered, a murder Aud couldn't stop, so along with her grief is the pain of guilt.

Reluctantly, she agrees to find a friend's missing fiancee. Tracking the woman to New York, she finds a different kind of loss. Tammy has lost her sense of self to the abusive man she's been living with, a sociopath whose skill at manipulation comes up against Aud's pain and need to release pent-up anger.

I fully expected Aud's hunting of that man to provide the bulk of the narrative, but that plot point is quickly made and the story moves on as Griffith focuses on Aud's emotional turmoil, her need to make amends for the bad things she's done, and an emotional quest that makes the plight of one illegal immigrant girl the focus of her attention.

I know this sounds disjointed. There's no easy way to sum this book up without revealing too much. In many ways, there isn't much of a story for 300 pages. So many pages are consumed by mundane things in life, and Aud's refurbishing of the cabin she's inherited. Her background is only sparsely filled in. But the prose sings. It sucked me in, somehow making me feel more is going on than seems on the surface. At its heart, this book is about the quest for personal salvation, of healing and of self-discovery. Aud slowly learns to accept that she's human, even if the acceptance is half-hearted.

I loved the book, but it's not for everyone. The lesbian aspect will be a turnoff for many, but something this well written is a worthy reading experience for the reader willing to try something a bit different.

I'm going on vacation in a few days, for about 10 days. The June Booked by 3 will be posted soon after I get home.