Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review of Learning to Stay


Happy Valentine's Day!

 Learning to Stay

Learning to Stay 
Erin Celello
NAL Trade

*I received this book for review purposes from Net Galley. No compensation was received for my review. All opinions are my true thoughts and feelings concerning this book.*

I saw this book offered on Net Galley and thought it would be interesting. I loved the title and the cover. I never imagined the impact this book would have on me. I believe Learning to Stay will be at the top of my list of 2013 Best Books. Here is the synopsis from Net Galley:

Elise Sabato is proud of her husband, Brad, for serving his country...and grateful when he returns home to her. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq has turned him from a thoughtful, brilliant, and patient man into someone quite different....someone who requires more care and attention than Elise can give while working in a demanding law firm. And when Brad ends up on his family’s farm, hundreds of miles away, she wonders where their marriage is headed.

Elise must decide between the life she always wanted and the life she seems to be living…until she finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places: a lovable dog named Jones who teaches her that when the best-laid plans take unexpected turns, sometimes you end up right where you were meant to be.

My son served in Iraq. I think that was part of the appeal for me. I have found that since his return I am drawn to books about homecomings. I did fine with those. I was not expecting the way this book would hit me. After reading the first chapter I knew I would be reading the book slowly. I do not know if Erin Celello had personal experience but she certainly writes as if she does.

She writes of how you know it is not the telephone you fear. It is the car coming down your street. It is the knock on your door. She knows the hours you are safe from the knock but not the worry. The way she writes you see it playing out in your head and feel every emotion with the characters.

There is a part in chapter 3, after Brad comes home, where she sees him outside. It is 3 a.m. and winter in Wisconsin. Brad is barefoot in jeans, no shirt. She writes, “ I watch as he watches the fence, like a dog on high alert – body tensed, ready to spring on whatever might be lying in wait out there.” Suddenly I am thrust back to the December my son came home. I had gotten up to use the bathroom and noticed my son was not there. I went to the window and saw him crouched down behind a car, also only in his jeans. I watched while he ran, always in a crouch, from car to car, looking around on alert for an enemy not there. Watching him I knew his body was in Chicago but he was in Iraq. I stood there weeping, not knowing what to do. Still today, I weep writing this. Ms. Celello has captured the feelings perfectly in her story. In all the books I have read, none has transported me like that. None have captured the scene so personally.

Lest you think this is a military type book let me clarify. It is a love story. It is a realistic, heartbreaking, strong love story. It is the story of two people who love each other dearly. Then life and war intervene, bringing changes they didn't expect and have to muddle through. It is the story of the fight to regain the love they had and a struggle to try to accept the love it has become. It is inspirational. It is a story of healing and how animals can help. 

I love how the author brought in the dog, Jones, and the organization PAWS to help Brad adjust and regain his life. Pets truly are gifted with the ability to mend broken hearts.
 
Ms Celello writes Learning to Stay with intimate knowledge. If she did not experience it then she is a master of research. She writes eloquently and powerfully. This book will touch you and will stay with you long after you close the pages. It is one of the most amazing books I have read.

It is an excellent book for book clubs as there is a lot to discuss in it. Most people will be able to relate to the struggles in the marriage. I think this is the type of book that draws in your personal experiences and not everyone will take the same thing from it. I believe, much like the classics, every time you read it you will come away with something new.


Erin Celello has written one other book, Miracle Beach.

 Miracle Beach


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