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.
On one hand, I really enjoyed this book. I think the teenage version of myself would have loved it – not because I was younger, just because of the poetry, the style, a girl using poetry to heal herself, all the Emily Dickinson. It would have screamed to me, “READ ME! I am melancholy, introspective and full of poetry, just like you!”
Some of the passages and poems in ‘And We Stay’ are so beautiful. For example: “For Paul to want their story to end the way it did is beyond her comprehension, and the poems in her head, like her fancy new signature, flutter like flags of surrender.” or “In the vaulted Space of Emily Beam’s Mind, Ghosts hover like Clouds.”
On the other hand, the connection to Emily Dickson felt a bit forced and the characters a bit hollow. That being said, I still enjoyed the book because I love Emily Dickinson, I love poetry and I liked the feminine, gentle presentation such a real, present day tragedy.