Say say say A novel

Lila Savage

Book - 2019

A beautiful, bracingly honest debut novel about the triangle formed between a young woman and the couple whose life she enters one transformative year: a story about love and compassion, the fluidity of desire, and the myriad ways of devotion. Ella is nearing thirty, and not yet living the life she imagined. Her artistic ambitions as a student in Minnesota have given way to an unintended career in caregiving. One spring, Bryn--a retired carpenter--hires her to help him care for Jill, his wife of... many years. A car accident caused a brain injury that has left Jill verbally diminished; she moves about the house like a ghost of her former self, often able to utter, like an incantation, only the words that comprise this novel's title. As Ella is drawn ever deeper into the couple's household, her presence unwanted but wholly necessary, she is profoundly moved by the tenderness Bryn shows toward the wife he still fiercely loves. Ella is startled by the yearning this awakens in her, one that complicates her feelings for her girlfriend, Alix, and causes her to look at relationships of all kinds--between partners, between employer and employee, and above all between men and women--in new ways. Tightly woven, humane and insightful, tracing unflinchingly the most intimate reaches of a young woman's heart and mind, Say Say Say is a riveting story about what it means to love, in a world where time is always running out.

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Subjects
Genres
Domestic fiction
Psychological fiction
Novels
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2019.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
"A Borzoi Book" -title page verso.
Physical Description
161 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
9780525655923
0525655921
Main Author
Lila Savage (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Artist-turned-caretaker Ella gets hired as a part-time companion for Jill, plagued by early onset dementia since a serious accident years ago and barely able to speak. Perhaps even more crucial than tending to Jill, Ella gives Jill's husband, Bryn, a respite from his steadfast caring for her. Inside their hermetic home, basically Jill's entire world, Ella tries to meet Jill on her level and honor the couple, whose roles were stripped genderless through a wildfire of loss. But Ella, who's committed to her girlfriend, is surprised by the flush she gets in the presence of movie-star-handsome Bryn, who seems young, strong, and still able to find joy in the face of his beloved wife's deterioration. Savage's debut unfolds in dense, descriptive paragraphs that are mostly transcriptions of first-person narrator Ella's thoughts. This level of intimacy can get bogged-down in the details; action and conversation occur largely off-page, and tensions are as much obscured as revealed. Still, Savage explores interesting territory, in particular, commitment, aging and caretaking, and gender's influence on all of it. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Savage's startling, tender debut follows Ella, a young caregiver hired to help a woman of rapidly diminishing mental capability, and the relationship Ella develops with her and her husband. At the novel's start, Ella is on the cusp of 30 and living in Minneapolis with her girlfriend, Alix, whom she loves deeply and uncomplicatedly. After dropping out of graduate school, Ella makes a modest living as a caregiver, though she harbors vague artistic inclinations. Her newest client is Jill, who, at 60, is younger than her usual clientele; her mental state has deteriorated ever since she was in a car accident over a decade ago. Unable to hold coherent conversations or wash herself, Jill has been taken care of by her husband, Bryn, a retired carpenter. Initially hired to provide Bryn with a reprieve, Ella finds herself gradually immersed in Bryn and Jill's lives, and soon her role as Jill's companion evolves into something more intimate and complex. Over the next year, Jill's condition worsens and Bryn becomes more visibly strained even as the force of his love for Jill stays steady, and what Ella witnesses between the two of them challenges her ideas of love, spirituality, and empathy. Quietly forceful, Savage's luminous debut is beautifully written, and will stay with readers long after the final page. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, the Gernert Company. (July) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Working as a caregiver in the home of a retired carpenter and his accident-disabled wife, an aspiring artist is deeply moved by the couple's devotion, which unconsciously impacts her relationship with her girlfriend. A first novel.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Working as a caregiver in the home of a retired carpenter and his accident-disabled wife, an aspiring artist is deeply moved by the couple's devotion, which unconsciously impacts her relationship with her girlfriend.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

One of the The Wall Street Journal's 10 Best Fiction Books of 2019 "A gem of a book . . . lyrical, tender, and profoundly insightful."--Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for StoneA beautiful, bracingly honest debut novel about the triangle formed between a young woman and the couple whose life she enters one transformative year: a story about love and compassion, the fluidity of desire, and the myriad ways of devotion.Ella is nearing thirty, and not yet living the life she imagined. Her artistic ambitions as a student in Minnesota have given way to an unintended career in caregiving. One spring, Bryn--a retired carpenter--hires her to help him care for Jill, his wife of many years. A car accident caused a brain injury that has left Jill verbally diminished; she moves about the house like a ghost of her former self, often able to utter, like an incantation, only the words that comprise this novel's title.As Ella is drawn ever deeper into the couple's household, her presence unwanted but wholly necessary, she is profoundly moved by the tenderness Bryn shows toward the wife he still fiercely loves. Ella is startled by the yearning this awakens in her, one that complicates her feelings for her girlfriend, Alix, and causes her to look at relationships of all kinds--between partners, between employer and employee, and above all between men and women--in new ways.Tightly woven, humane and insightful, tracing unflinchingly the most intimate reaches of a young woman's heart and mind, Say Say Say is a riveting story about what it means to love, in a world where time is always running out.