Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review: Stay With Me by Sandra Rodriguez Barron

In the aftermath of a hurricane, a luxury boat docks at an unused, unfinished marina in Puerto Rico. A blond woman and three Latino men slip off the boat unnoticed. When the boat is discovered by authorities, there are five babies and toddlers on board. The abandoned children are wearing beautiful clothing and look well cared for. An investigation is launched into the children's origins but no one ever comes forward to claim them. Each of them is eventually adopted into their own family but they retain a sense of family with each other, the Starfish Children, so named because of the faint green drawing of a starfish on each tiny hand. Despite the fact that they have no knowledge of their biological family and that they grew up in different families far apart, David, Taina, Holly, Adrian, and Raymond consider themselves siblings. So when David, now in his early thirties, is diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain cancer, the group cannot say no to his desire that they all reunite at his ex-girlfriend Julia's family cottage on one of the Thimble Islands off the coast of Connecticut.

What none of the others know is that David's tumor has started causing him to have flashbacks to the time before the hurricane and he wants them to dig into their past and finally know the truth about their origins. David wants to give each of them a solid history like the one that Julia, his ex-girlfriend and the woman he is determined to marry, has. Each of the Starfish Children has emotional baggage as a result of their unknown past and as David faces his own mortality, he needs to help everyone confront the demons. Taina is married to a stockbroker turned detective but her fear of intimacy is driving them towards a divorce regardless of how much her husband wants to save their marriage. Holly is married with three young boys but she can't stop the ache she feels at her lack of a daughter, especially one who looks like her rather than like her husband and red-headed sons. Adrian is a rising singing star who bounces from woman to woman, making certain that no one gets too close or too needy. Raymond is a cook who battles alcoholism and a rather lonely existence. David is a naturalist who loves the out of doors but who lost Julia after a six-year live-in relationship because he was unable to take the next step into marriage.

As David fights against his cancer, he pulls his struggling siblings to his heart, counting on the fact that despite their issues with others, they have such a deep connection to each other that they will reunite for a week of enforced family togetherness in the magic that is Julia's family home. And he is partially right. As the distant and historical past swirls around them in the Griswold home, more than just a curiousity about their shared past comes to the fore and there are manifestations of the dysfunctions that populate all families.

The narration is shared between characters and an omniscient narrator who focuses in turn on the different siblings in the course not only of the week in Connecticut but also through David's battle with cancer and on their home lives. This truly fills the novel with an ensemble cast. David and Julia, as the two characters most fully invested in David's care, are the most completely developed and central to the plot but each of the characters is individual, well-rounded, and real. The mystery of the origins of the siblings is interesting but not the only thing that drives the plot and keeps the reader turning the pages. Wanting to know if the siblings can maintain their family relationship in the face of the truth's potential and the devastation of David's prognosis is even more engaging. The last couple of chapters are simply beautifully written. Relationships, the family we make, the importance of history, and the power of love are all important themes here. This was a lovely read.

For more information about Sandra Rodriguez Barron and the book, be sure to visit her website. There's loads of interesting stuff there, including the fact that she met her husband over a keg of beer at a Superbowl party.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for arranging the blog tour and having a copy of the book sent to me for review.


  1. It looks like you were able to make a stronger connection with this book then I was. Glad to see you liked it!

  2. Thank you both for the thoughtful reviews. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have my work read.

    Sandra R. Barron

  3. This certainly sounds like a fascinating story - I'm glad to know that there is more to it than just finding out the truth about their pasts, though that certainly sounds fascinating enough.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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