Say Say Say follows a 20-something artist-turned-caregiver who takes a job in the home of a couple, caring for Jill, who suffered a brain injury in an accident. Jill's husband, Bryn, is attentive and loving, but burned out by the duties and realities of this new life with Jill. In her caregiving position, Ella is brought closely, intensely, almost claustrophobically into the lives of Jill and Bryn, causing her to examine her own role and feelings.
This meditation on the strange intimacy and separateness of the caregiver role was interesting, but it was internally focused and offered almost no plot, which made for challenging listening. It probably would have worked better for me in print instead of audio.
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“A gem of a book . . . lyrical, tender, and profoundly insightful.”–Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
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.