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Some Things That Stay
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2001
I flew through Some Things That Stay, vacillating between a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. It's a poignant novel, set in the 1950's, chronicling a few months in the life of a teen girl who is desperately trying to find herself in a world which seems to be constantly changing. Tamara's father is a painter, and he moves his wife and three children on a yearly basis in order to find new subject matter for his paintings. The book begins with the family's move to rural New York state, and just as things seem to be settling down for Tamara, her whole life is thrown into turmoil again, from a source she never would have expected.
I can't wait to get my hands on another Sarah Willis novel. This one was written with so much wisdom and understanding about the truly important things in life - your family, your relationships with others, your sense of self. Thanks very much to the amazon.com reader who including this gem in their listmania list!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2000
Fourteen year old Tamara has lived in a different house every year, with only her parents and her brothers as constants. Lying in bed in a room in a farmhouse where a year before a boy has died of leukemia she thinks about how heartbroken that boy's parents (and her family's current landlords) seem. Describing her parent's marriage, she says, "I try to imagine my parents without us kids. I can." I love this story of a girl who feels wild and honest. Sarah Willis writes with poetry and clarity. She cuts to the bones of feeling.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2000
The truth of the matter is that Sarah Willis' "Some ThingsThat Stay" should be rated much higher than five stars. It isone of the most powerful and affecting works of fiction I have read inrecent years. Thematically rich, with characters who are so real youimagine them sitting with you as you read, the novel literallyembraces us with the almost desperate ambivalence and profoundemotional tensions the compelling protagonist, Tamara Anderson, feels.That this is Ms. Willis' first novel makes the achievement all themore stunning. Rest assured, this work will find its way on therequired reading lists of both secondary and university readinglists.
In a seamless fashion, Sarah Willis has managed to convey thelife of an anachronistic family in the mid-1950s with accuracy andempathy. In an era which celebrated conventional nuclear families,the Andersons are peripatetic wanderers, the journeys fueled by afather whose need for fresh landscapes to fuel his painting requiresthe family to move from house to house each spring. Indeed,Ms. Willis explores the definitions of family and home throughout,both in her evocation of place and her contrasting the Andersons withtheir cross-street neighbors. These neighbors, whosereligion-centered lives contrast with the rational/scientific mind ofTamara's mother, provide both ballast and turmoil to Tamara'sworld-views.
In addition to the author's sensitive treatment of theaforementioned themes, she is at her very best in dealing with thewrenching illness of Tamara's mother and the protagonist's discoveryof her own body and growing awareness of herself as a sexual being.The descriptions of Tamara and her partner-in-discovery, Rusty, arealone worth the reading of the novel. Ms. Willis poses many seriousquestions: What is the best way for a family to handle medicaltragedy? What responsibility to parents have in guiding theirchildren? How do children accept the loss of a parent? What is themeaning of "home" in the life of a family? What is thenature of belief?
It is my hope to meet the author some day and topersonally thank her for this work. Sarah Willis will emerge as oneof our nation's most eloquent and wise interpreters; I anxiously awaither next novel.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I have this tendency, after reading "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby, of ranking everything. Sneaking a new book in is a tough thing. What do you drop out of your five? "Sophie's Choice?" Can't do it. "High Fidelity" itself? That's seems ironic. No. But, somehow, after finishing "Some Things That Stay," I had to weasel it in there somehow.
I don't even know why I was drawn to this book. I had just picked up Sarah's new one, "The Rehearsal," and thought, with only two books to her credit, I might as well read them in order.
What unfolded, in "Some Things That Stay," was a beautiful coming-of-age story. The beauty of it, for me, was that it was told in a sparse, Hemingwayesque style. There couldn't have been more than one hundred sentences that contained more than two commas. But, there, in it's simplicity, was warmth, humor, and observation so keen, it took my breath away.
The tale was one of an odd family. A family that moved. And with the moving came coping. Each family member accomplished that a bit differently. But, the story is anchored by its strong female lead, letting life flow over her as she experienced the first pangs of sexual experimentation, the loss of her mother's ability to live with them because of health, and her anger toward her father.
The main theme is a univeral one. How do we deal with loss? It is explored in many ways with various characters and subplots.
Finally, it is a book you will close at the end and say to yourself, Who can I give this to? Who can I grant this discovery to? A new author! A wonderful story!
Now, which book is getting the bump? I've gotta figure this out. . .
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2000
You can read what this book is about from the other reviews. All I want to say is that every single page of this novel was precious and so beautifully written. I had to draw my breath in with every page I turned because I could not believe that every word this woman wrote was so filled with humor and understanding for her characters. It amazes me how many fabulous writers are out there, just waiting to be discovered, and Ms. Willis is definitely one of those. I envy her talent and wish her every success. Highly, highly recommended. Enjoy!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2004
Tamara Anderson doesn't remember the last time her family lived in a community, because back then she was three years old. That's how many rented houses ago? Every year her father moves them to a new location, because he's a landscape painter and every year he requires a new vista.
So Tamara, Robert, and Megan's only on-going relationships must be with each other and with their parents. For Liz Anderson, her husband is her only friend in the world. She spends her considerable energies supplementing her children's public education, and embarrasses Tamara with frequent letters to whatever school her eldest is currently attending. Making sure the authorities know that the Andersons are devout atheists, civil rights advocates, and so on. Views which, in 1954, are flash points for the rural communities where her husband's work takes them.
Only now, as the story of the family's four months in Mayfield, New York begins, an overwhelmingly weary Liz seldom rouses herself to write such letters. She can barely drive her youngsters to the library. When the Murphys, a poor but lively Baptist family across the rural road from the Andersons' rented farm, invite the children to church, Liz tries to argue but winds up letting fifteen-year-old Tamara and the younger ones go. Partly because she must honor their intellectual curiosity about religion, but mostly because she's simply too tired to debate the issue.
Tamara's summer to grow up has arrived. Whether or not she's ready, she must look at her parents as people and face their mortality. For the first time since she can remember, their island within the larger world can no longer operate self-sufficiently. Liz's illness forces them to accept help which the Murphys offer-as do their landlords, a Methodist couple who moved out of the farmhouse after their only child (a boy just a year older than Tamara) died there.
"Just another coming of age novel" this is not. It captures a time and place, rural America in 1954, with a lack of sentimentality that should refresh even the most jaded of readers.
--Reviewed by Nina M. Osier, author of "Love, Jimmy: A Maine Veteran's Longest Battle"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2007
In the spring of 1954, Tamara Anderson is fifteen when her family moves into the pretty farmhouse across the road from the tar-papered house. Tamara is the oldest of three children. Her father is a painter whose landscapes require new locations for inspiration. The family moves yearly arriving weeks before the end of one school year and leaving weeks before the completion of the next.

Some things that stay is a coming of age story in which Tamara faces more than the standard fair of parental misunderstanding, sexual awakening and sibling confrontations. Raised in an extremely liberal, atheist family, Tamara has of none of the body/sex hang-ups so many of us grew up with and her sexual awakening is refreshingly guilt-free. Moving constantly, she dreams of stability and a more-than-fleeting connection into society. In the course of the story, she tries out the Baptist church with the neighbors from the tar-paper house--neighbors who are more than the junky cars littering their front yard. In light of her atheistic upbringing, Tamara's contemplation of God, organized religion, prayer, and fate vs faith adds an interesting layer. She faces ethical dilemmas, maternal illness, paternal selfishness, and, of course, sexual awakening.

A deep, meaty story, Sarah Willis' Some things that stay is a great book club selection. My book club read it and loved it. The concepts raised yielded plenty of spirited conversation. I recommend it.

Reviewed by: Laurel Bradley, Author of A Wish in Time
A Wish In Time
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2000
I just loved reading this book. It brought back so many memories of being 15 years old and thinking your parents were absolutely nuts. I loved the way Ms. Willis wrote in the first person. Her funny and dead-on comments by all of the children in this book were delightful. I can't wait to read another of her stories. I will be recommending this book to my many friends who are readers. What a delight!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2000
Although the age of 14 was many years ago, Sarah Willis brings it all back to me with her incredible insight and remembrance of teenage melodrama and angst. I thoroughly enjoyed her novel, and can't wait for her next piece of work.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2001
I consider books like Some Things That Stay little gems. I found this book because I am a big fan of T. Greenwood's books. Amazon.com does a very good job with recommendations. There is a review printed on the book that goes something like "sometimes authors say something so amazing you stop and re-read that part again, Sarah Willis has this on each page." And I found it to be true.
Tamara Anderson moves every Spring, all through her 15 years. The author could not have painted a clearer image of the surroundings, the characters and everything else that she conveyed in this book. It was a bit of a coming of age story, but I found it to be richer than the average coming of age novel. It was beautifully written with a lot of heart, I look forward to future novels by her.
I highly recommend this book!
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