Aussie Book Review: Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy

Stay With Me Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy


Review copy provided by publisher

Allen & Unwin, April 2015

 Synopsis- Tess is in trouble. Stuck on a farm outside Byron Bay, cut off from family and friends, Tess knows she must find a way to escape her violent partner to save her life and the life of her child …

A chance meeting offers a way out – but can she ever trust again? Tess embarks on a desperate road trip back to the heart of her past. But what will be waiting for her at home? Will her family forgive her – and can she forgive them?

 Review- Engrossing from the very beginning, McCarthy’s latest page-turner Stay With Me delivers a story that will definitely stay with you even once you’ve put it down. Seventeen year old Tess takes a break in Byron Bay with some friends. Raised by her three older siblings, she struggles to live up to their expectations of her and find her place in the world. Directionless, isolated and looking for an adventure, it’s when Tess meets Jay that her life turns upside down. He’s a man quite a few years older than her who pays her special attention and it’s this fascination with the budding attraction that instigates an impulsive decision to remain in Byron rather than returning to her family; much to their disappointment. Their relationship quickly becomes serious and Tess realises she’s in way over her head. Jay is controlling, manipulative and isolates her from the few friends she’s made in the town. She’s pregnant shortly after and that’s when the violence begins to escalate beyond psychological to physical. Tess does whatever she can to survive and protect her young daughter Nellie.

The story is told through Tess’s viewpoint in the present moment when she’s aged twenty-one and makes the brave choice to flee the situation, and through a serious of flashbacks and memories of her childhood and adolescence. Though it was sad, it was also completely believable that a vulnerable young teen would naively be seduced into an abusive relationship. McCarthy sensitively and realistically portrays Tess’s experience of domestic violence in this novel. The story oozes anxiety which reflects the impact of the trauma on Tess and the fear of the repercussions upon leaving the situation with her daughter. It adds a suspenseful element to the story also.

Stay With Me is very well written and adequately explores the difficulties faced by young women and their children who are abusive households. It also demonstrates just how hard it is for women in these situations to leave, and that when they do, their lives are endangered. I also felt McCarthy fleshed out the sibling relationships in a very relateable way and the tense dynamics when Tess is reunited with them. A very engrossing read.

Overall Rating


“I loved this book!”

Stay With Me can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2015 challenge:

Book #8 reviewed

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