The book Stay by Allie Larkin is the perfect combination of two of my favorite summer beach reading genres – quirky romantic comedy and dog. It is about a woman named Van who fell in love with Peter the first day they met in college. They were inseparable until Peter meets Van’s best friend Janie and marries her instead. Van does what any torn best friend would do in that situation. After the wedding Van drinks too much vodka and accidentally orders a black German Shepard puppy off the Internet from Slovakia.
Instead of getting a tiny puppy, Van gets a 100-pound dog that only speaks Slovak. She names him Joe and he is quite a character himself! In fact, Larkin says that her own dog Argo was the inspiration for Joe. In an interview she explains, “Yes, that’s Argo on the cover of Stay! Argo was certainly the inspiration for Van’s dog Joe, even though he’s from the Catskills, not Slovakia, and we didn’t buy him off the internet. It was kind of a happy accident that he ended up on the cover, and I don’t think it could feel more perfect. I wrote a little more about it here.”
Because of Joe Van meets Dr. Alex Brandt, a veterinarian who is the type of man Van deserves and more. As Van starts to move on and get over her seven years of pining for Peter, Janie and Peter come back from their honeymoon and put Van in a situation where she may have to give up the one thing she has always wanted to keep another.
I really liked this book. The thing that stands out in Stay is how well the characters and their relationships are crafted. It’s hard to believe that this is Larkin’s first novel! Through flashbacks and interactions, you get more insight as to who and what the characters are about and how they are like a family of friends. This book would make an excellent movie. I can see Van played by a Jennifer Gardener type.
The characters are multilayered and sometimes conflicted just like in real life. Van is the type of girl that could easily be one of your best friends but she’s also a hot mess. Her best friend practically grew up with her as a sister but she's also been a bit jealous of her privileged life. Van wants to be happy for her best friend but Janie is marrying the man Van has adored since she first met him. Peter knows this but I think he comes to love Van more as a sister than as a woman who could be his wife. To top it all off the only person that Van could possibly confide in is her mother who was more like a best friend than a mom and suddenly passes away. All Van eventually has is her dog and finally lets the damn burst she sobs her hot mess of problems into Joe’s fur. It was those passages in particular when I called my own dog beside me to pet as I read them. I could totally relate to the unconditional love and bond between a girl and her dog.
If you liked Pug Hill by Alison Pace you will love Stay by Allie Larkin.
Disclosure: I was provided with an advanced copy of Stay to facilitate this review because I can’t write a book review on the day it is released without reading the book, now can I? All opinions are my own. Long time readers know I am very opinioned and would not give something a positive review just to fake you into buying it. In other words, I really liked this book.
Further Disclosure: I really read and liked Pug Hill. I got it out at the library.