Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Learning to Stay by Erin Celello

4.5 Star
Elise Sabato is proud of her husband, Brad, for serving his country...and grateful when he returns home to her. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq has turned him from a thoughtful, brilliant, and patient man into someone quite different....someone who requires more care and attention than Elise can give while working in a demanding law firm. And when Brad ends up on his family’s farm, hundreds of miles away, she wonders where their marriage is headed.

Elise must decide between the life she always wanted and the life she seems to be living…until she finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places: a lovable dog named Jones who teaches her that when the best-laid plans take unexpected turns, sometimes you end up right where you were meant to be.

Jen - 4.5 Star

In Learning to Stay, I learned so much about a side of war that I haven’t seen before. We see a lot of touching videos online of dads coming home from Iraq by surprising their children at school, or weeping wives holding signs up to welcome their husbands home from war. But what happens when they get home? What happens when the men and women aren’t the same people they were when they left?That’s the story Erin Celello tells is this moving story about Elise Sabato and her husband, Brad. 

My first impression of Elise was that she was a strong character, a good wife and a faithful friend. The fact that Elise is a lawyer proves she’s tough and intelligent, but at the same time, she’s also emotional and unaware of the complications many soldiers face after coming home from war.

The book begins with Elise witnessing her friend experience the one thing military wives pray will not happen to them. I appreciated the author’s risk at making Elise feel raw emotions that were so honest that most people probably do feel, but never share. It made the story so real to me. That same raw emotion weaves itself throughout the entire book, making it impossible not to feel the sadness Elise goes through.

The events that unveil the trauma Brad has suffered in Iraq are harrowing and hard to read. Elise explains how smart, capable and charismatic he was before he went to Iraq, making the contrast between the man he was and the man who is now smashing the mirrors in their home stark and foreboding. Celello does an amazing job of showing the scary side of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but at the same time, Brad is a lovable character and you understand Elise’s yearning to bring her husband back.

Elise sets out to help her husband survive the grips of his disorder and the obstacles she has to go through are unimaginable. What’s even more unbelievable is her strength and composure, even when you think she’s given up, she finds another way to keep her marriage together.

The end of Learning to Stay is as satisfying as endings go. Loose ends get tied up and the characters find answers, but there are still surprises and the characters grow in ways they never imagined possible. 

Thank you to NAL for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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