Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review - Stay

by Lewis Trondheim
illustrated by Hubert Chevillard
Date: 2019
Publisher: Lion Forge
Reading level: A
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 128
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Roland has the perfect vacation planned for Fabienne - everything is organized, booked, and paid for in advance, with the entire itinerary recorded in a notebook. It's going to be a wonderful week where they can discuss their future together.

But before they can even get their luggage to their rental, Roland is decapitated in a freak accident. And Fabienne, stunned and alone, has no idea how to process it. So in her daze of denial, she decides to stay and follow the itinerary as planned, as if the tragedy never happened.

Ghost-like, she wanders the tourist-filled streets, a passive spectator to the joys of others' lives. Along the way, she meets Paco, a local vendor with some eccentric views on life and death. Being rather private normally, it isn't hard for her to lie about the companion that never seems to be there at that very moment, but Paco soon puts the pieces together. His minor fascination with bizarre deaths has him all too familiar with the tale of the recently decapitated tourist. And he realizes this woman needs a friend right now more than anything else. So they spend a platonic week off and on, neither of them talking about what happened.

And that seems to be precisely what she needs to process everything.

A moving and mesmerizing look at life, death, and the many different ways we cope with each, written by celebrated author Lewis Trondheim and illustrated by Hubert Chevillard.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the kind of book that makes me feel stupid. And I don't read to feel stupid.

Fabienne's partner, Roland, gets his head rather graphically cut off in the first few pages, and the rest of the story is about her dealing--or, rather, not dealing--with her grief. She decides to stay and enjoy the vacation that Roland had planned for them, refusing the funeral and even telling her mother that she's not traumatized. (Yeah, right. She was holding his hand when his head came off. How could she not be traumatized?)

Anyway, as she's going about her vacation in complete and utter denial, she meets a Manic Pixie Dream Boy by the name of Paco. He may or may not be married, and may or may not have lost his penis as a child. He carries around a bottle of his own urine so he can dump it on the head of a barking dog, so it's obvious that we're supposed to view him as "quirky".

Unfortunately, I was so distracted by that disgusting little detail that I was pretty grossed out for the rest of the story. Fabienne starts hanging out with Paco, and even sharing meals with him, which... hello? Bottle of urine? *shudder*

The resolution to the story feels utterly hollow. Fabienne, having "worked through" her grief by refusing to acknowledge it, dumps Roland's stuff and goes home. The end. Seriously? If this book hadn't been such a quick read, I would be even more annoyed by that ending than I already am.

The far more interesting questions aren't answered. What drew Paco to the grieving widow in the first place? Has Fabienne really put the whole messy business behind her (and, if so, what does that say about her mental state)? There are too many unanswered questions.

I don't know what the point of this story even is. When you start out with something as dramatic as a decapitation, you better follow it up with a great story. This book almost seems like it was told in reverse, with the climax coming at the beginning. Unfortunately, that doesn't really hold a reader's interest or ultimately satisfy them... especially if the characters don't grow or change as a result of the inciting dramatic event.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lion Forge for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2.13 out of 5 ladybugs

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