Wednesday, 20 November 2013

If I Stay

If I Stay
Gayle Forman
London, Black Swan, 2009, 250p

The concept behind this novel is unbelievably tragic. From the wreck of her parent's car, Mia can see her broken body being held together by the paramedics. She knows she is hurt, but cannot feel it; instead, she watches from the outside as her life falls apart and her friends and family pray for her recovery.

Based on true events, this novel is a spiritual exploration of the thin line between life and death. It asks difficult questions about what it means to lose everyone you love and how you are meant to live when life alters irrevocably.

If I Stay is also a novel about music - it has it's own soundtrack. Mia is a cellist and her family and boyfriend are ardent rock fans. Music runs throughout the novel, from the moment the accident occurs, drawing out memories and emotions, sometimes long forgotten.

Memory is an important theme in this novel. As her body tries to recuperate, Mia's spiritual other dreams of the past - of meeting her boyfriend, of laughter shared with her family. The use of different tenses is brilliantly emotive - sometimes, the memories are written in present tense, as if Mia is experiencing things that happened long ago for the first time. And particuylarly poignant is when Mia refers to her mother in the past tense, slowly coming to terms with what has happened.

I have mixed feelings on finishing this novel. I loved reading it - so poetic and musical, intricately composed. But it was the kind of book that should have made me cry and, strangely, I shed not one tear.

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