Stay with me by Maureen McCarthy

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781743316887
(Age: Young adults) Recommended. Stay with me is Maureen McCarthy's most recent novel in her growing list of publications for young adult girls. A comprehensive novel that explores the topical issues of partnership abuse and violence, it examines the question many ask: 'Why doesn't she leave?' McCarthy's addressing of this sensitive and profound issue is a timely reminder for young people.
The detailed narrative builds tension steadily until the reader fears something . . . anything . . . might happen. Tess is stuck in an abusive relationship. Living in fear, on a farm in the Byron Bay hinterland with Jay and their three-year-old daughter Nellie, Tess knows any attempt by her to escape her violent partner will be the most dangerous thing she'll ever do. Against her older sister's wishes, seventeen-year-old Tess had chosen to leave her own fractured family four years previously, in favour of life with an older man and she has not communicated with her family since. An unexpected meeting with a couple of strangers enables her escape home to Victoria, the only place where she feels she can hide. However any reunion with her siblings is likely to be fraught given the circumstances of her departure from the family fold, and the long road trip gives her pause for reflection on the reception she might receive at the end of the journey. Coupled with this is the ever-present threat that Jay will discover her whereabouts.
While the issues of abuse are not overt or too graphically portrayed, the inferences and threats of danger are still strong. McCarthy's characters 'are real' and I enjoyed the emotional connections she portrays, especially the relationship between little Nellie and the adults who surround and care for her. With some issues still to be resolved, perhaps a sequel is in the planning.
An easy to read narrative that deals with issues of domestic violence, this novel is recommended for young adults.
Colleen Tuovinen