When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.
This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.
I'm glad I didn't go into reading And We Stay knowing what it was about. The subject matter hit me hard. There's this mystery that comes with not knowing the reason why Emily is shipped off to boarding school that makes it so much more interesting. Eventually when I did find out that Paul, her ex-boyfriend, killed himself and why he did it - it just put everything into perspective and had me feeling for Emily and her situation. The poetry really came to life as the story progressed. Emily's words were worked into the story along with Emily Dickinson's work. I've never really read/remembered an Emily Dickinson poem. While discovering Emily and her background I was able to learn about Emily Dickinson's life and I began to care and want to read her poems right there and then. Oh, yes, she could feel it even though the bullet had never stabbed her skin. The bright white heat burned at her core where two lives beat, and if he'd aimed there and pulled the trigger, red would have crested like a broken dam over her hands as her last word rushed up to her throat-- Paul-- a sound that took no time and also lifetimes.”- Emily Beam The poetry took a while to get used to, but it turned out really beautiful. I was in tears after reading a few of them. I liked the quirky friends Emily made, but they didn't make the story. Emily, her struggles, and her poetry made And We Stay worthwhile. And We Stay was way more impactful than I could have ever foreseen. And We Stay showed the real complexity of a decision and the lives it can affect.