Title: Learning to Stay by Erin Celello
Publisher: Penguin/NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
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.
What would you do if your significant other changed dramatically following an injury or illness? In Erin Celello’s Learning to Stay, that is exactly the quandary that Elise Sabato is in following her husband Brad’s return from his deployment in Iraq.
Brad Sabato escaped serious injury when the convoy he was riding in was hit by an IED. Elise’s relief and joy at his safe return soon turns to despair when she realizes there is something drastically wrong with her husband. Brad is now prone to violent and angry outbursts and he is unable to perform the most basic of daily tasks. He begins drinking heavily and Elise is constantly walking on eggshells around her now volatile husband. Genuinely afraid not only for herself, but also for Brad’s safety, she arranges for him to go live with his father while she tries to come to terms with their uncertain future.
Elise’s struggle to reconcile the husband who returned home from Iraq to the man she married is utterly heartbreaking. As the sole breadwinner in the family, she is caught in a horrible position once she realizes that Brad needs constant care. Elise is also facing the terrible realization that the dreams and hopes she and Brad once shared are no longer possibilities once she comprehends the full ramifications of living with someone with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Learning to Stay is an incredibly poignant novel that highlights the hidden injuries of war as well as the struggle to re-integrate into life at home after serving in combat. It also details the difficult and complex journey that veterans and their families face when they attempt to find treatment for TBI and PTSD. Erin Celello does an outstanding job demonstrating the devastating toll these injuries take on the lives of the injured and their loved ones.
Learning to Stay is a compelling and moving novel that I highly recommend.