banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

BOOK REVIEW: Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy

| 5 June 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy

Allen & Unwin
May 2015
Paperback, $22.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



‘Mummy the moron!’ she snarls. ‘Shit for brains!’
I recoil in shock. It comes back so clearly that I feel like I’m still there. I see her kneeling by the low table concentrating on her drawing, Barry propped up next to her. Your mummy has got shit for brains, kiddo… he said lightly, ruffling her hair.

Right from the first page of Stay With Me, the reader is drawn into Tess’s story. We’re immediately invested in her survival as she runs away in the wee small hours of the morning with her daughter, escaping her abusive partner.
Emotions run high at the start of the piece, and the reader can’t help but feel as paranoid as Tess does, as worried that maybe this stranger who has agreed to help her out is actually playing some sick game with her, and is going to rat her out to her partner.

Jay had inserted himself into Tess’s life, ignoring her requests that he not go to her flat when she wasn’t there…

I’m back in my flat at Duncan and Amy’s, searching frantically for the pink notebook I kept under my pillow.
Sure, I took it. What’s the big deal? Baby, I’m your guy, right? I need to know what’s going on in that little head of yours. What chance have we got if you keep secrets, Tess?

Until he managed to get her evicted and fired, until he managed to sever her contact with anyone outside his inner circle.

Within a week I had no phone. At the time I cursed my carelessness and assumed I’d get a replacement. Jay made such a big deal of helping me look for it that it didn’t enter my head until much later that he’d probably taken it himself.

And then she got pregnant, and the baby gave him even more leverage over her. But now it’s time to run. Now it’s time to find her way back to the family she ran away from four years ago.


Tess, named for her great-grandmother Theresa, is terrified of even owning a mobile registered in the name of a stranger, because she’s certain Jay will find her with it, Yet she goes running back to the house of the only relative Jay knows the name of.

The writing is engaging, tight, and emotional throughout the novel, the characters entertaining and realistic, and the first 40% of the book is fast paced and hard to put down, the next 20% after that easily readable, but as the story progresses it feels almost as though McCarthy ran out of direction, with not much happening again until the last thirty pages. So, while the first two-hundred pages keep drawing the reader back, the one-twenty that follow require more of a conscious effort to return.

There was nothing particularly bad about this novel, logic errors and predictable outcomes aside, but it felt like it wanted to be too many things at once, and the mention of a weird ghostly presence never really played a part in the story at large, and never developed into anything, nor was the mental illness aspect explored properly. This, coupled with the sudden ending of the book after so much time spent just getting to know the people in Tess’s life, hints that the big inspiration was the escape from the abusive partner, but that it wasn’t enough to fill a novel.

All in all, it was more enjoyable than not, and McCarthy nailed the creepy elements. I will be looking out for more works by this author.


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad