Say Say Say

Knopf. Jul. 2019. 176p. ISBN 9780525655923. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780525655930. f.
DEBUT Nearing 30, once-aspiring artist Ella wonders if she’s wasting her capabilities by working as a caregiver yet feels she makes a difference every day. Currently, she tends to 60ish Jill, left brain-injured after a car accident, who can barely utter more than the title’s “say say say.” Yet Jill’s retired carpenter husband, Bryn, shows his wife a tenderness and devotion that brings Ella up short, making her consider her own uncertain relationship with girlfriend Alix and the nature of relationships generally. As she goes about her work, with Jill’s condition gradually deteriorating and Bryn becoming increasingly anxious, Ella learns more about the couple’s marriage and develops a compassion for Bryn, a sort-of one-sided love, whose nature cannot be easily articulated.
VERDICT First novelist’s Savage’s lesson in the complexity of caring is carefully detailed and graced with a quiet drama that will be appreciated by readers not looking for fireworks. [See Prepub Alert, 1/7/19.]

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