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Should We Stay or Should We Go

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When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man into a paranoid lunatic. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief. Both medical professionals, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many elderly patients in similar states of decay. Although healthy and vital in their early fifties, th When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man into a paranoid lunatic. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief. Both medical professionals, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many elderly patients in similar states of decay. Although healthy and vital in their early fifties, the couple fears what may lie ahead. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal. To spare themselves and their loved ones such a humiliating and protracted decline, they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned eighty. When their deal is sealed, the spouses are blithely looking forward to another three decades together. But then they turn eighty. By turns hilarious and touching, playful and grave, Should We Stay or Should We Go portrays twelve parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for Kay and Cyril. Were they to cut life artificially short, what would they miss out on? Something terrific? Or something terrible? Might they end up in a home? A fabulous luxury retirement village, or a Cuckoo’s Nest sort of home? Might being demented end up being rather fun? What future for humanity awaits—the end of civilization, or a Valhalla of peace and prosperity? What if cryogenics were really to work? What if scientists finally cure aging? Both timely and timeless, Lionel Shriver addresses serious themes—the compromises of longevity, the challenge of living a long life and still going out in style—with an uncannily light touch. Weaving in a host of contemporary issues, from Brexit and mass migration to the coronavirus, Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn perished characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.


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When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man into a paranoid lunatic. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief. Both medical professionals, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many elderly patients in similar states of decay. Although healthy and vital in their early fifties, th When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man into a paranoid lunatic. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief. Both medical professionals, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many elderly patients in similar states of decay. Although healthy and vital in their early fifties, the couple fears what may lie ahead. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal. To spare themselves and their loved ones such a humiliating and protracted decline, they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned eighty. When their deal is sealed, the spouses are blithely looking forward to another three decades together. But then they turn eighty. By turns hilarious and touching, playful and grave, Should We Stay or Should We Go portrays twelve parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for Kay and Cyril. Were they to cut life artificially short, what would they miss out on? Something terrific? Or something terrible? Might they end up in a home? A fabulous luxury retirement village, or a Cuckoo’s Nest sort of home? Might being demented end up being rather fun? What future for humanity awaits—the end of civilization, or a Valhalla of peace and prosperity? What if cryogenics were really to work? What if scientists finally cure aging? Both timely and timeless, Lionel Shriver addresses serious themes—the compromises of longevity, the challenge of living a long life and still going out in style—with an uncannily light touch. Weaving in a host of contemporary issues, from Brexit and mass migration to the coronavirus, Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn perished characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.

30 review for Should We Stay or Should We Go

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Wow… This book took the cake on mind-bending topics to explore! I was into it!!! I dragged Paul into conversations about this one….and it sure would be a great choice for book clubs. …There are a handful of authors who write about poignant *issues*….. I consider Lionel Shriver the Queen Bee … of all authors (that I’ve read anyway)… who take up issues and toss & turn them inside out, bounce theories up & down - and all around — like nobody’s business. With twelve alternate universes… we get to exami Wow… This book took the cake on mind-bending topics to explore! I was into it!!! I dragged Paul into conversations about this one….and it sure would be a great choice for book clubs. …There are a handful of authors who write about poignant *issues*….. I consider Lionel Shriver the Queen Bee … of all authors (that I’ve read anyway)… who take up issues and toss & turn them inside out, bounce theories up & down - and all around — like nobody’s business. With twelve alternate universes… we get to examine and contemplate…(for ourselves, too, if we are willing)…aging-living-and death-from every angle. Should we stay or should we go?… It invites discussions— whether the reader likes the book or not. I rather not say too much… other than it’s a brain-teaser for sure. Who is this book for? Old farts - age 60+ …. and/or …. for anyone else who wants to explore in ‘depth’ many sides of aging, living, and death… It’s not completely without flaws …. but honestly I took away plenty. Loved the humor…parts were absolutely hilarious! Loved the love… Love the bickering… Loved the extended family… Love lots of tiny details… … naked-spooning marriage sweetness… …middle-of-the-night reading on the couch ….(out of kindness of Kay for her husband Cyril) And most of all…. The reminder and hope that all of us wish to die with dignity and not in pain. Yep… Lionel Shriver still can rock my little world I’m a fan!!! 4.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    I love Shriver's trenchant wit and intellect but I'm sorry to say this book didn't work for me. It's issue-driven and the characters are just chess pieces whose only function is to be moved around the board from chapter to chapter. The topic of an aging population has so much potential but it gets diluted via the showy 'Sliding Doors' format which Shriver has worked far more effectively in the past. And there's a strained attempt to liken the projected suicide of the characters to the national s I love Shriver's trenchant wit and intellect but I'm sorry to say this book didn't work for me. It's issue-driven and the characters are just chess pieces whose only function is to be moved around the board from chapter to chapter. The topic of an aging population has so much potential but it gets diluted via the showy 'Sliding Doors' format which Shriver has worked far more effectively in the past. And there's a strained attempt to liken the projected suicide of the characters to the national self-harm of Brexit and the covid lockdown (Shriver seems sceptical about the latter). This could have made a snappy short story - stretched to novel length, it fell flat for me. But flashes of cynical humour are a reminder of just how iconoclastic Shriver can be. Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    The conundrum behind the title, as Ms Shriver describes it herself, is “how to live a long-enough life yet still go out in style?” The concept is the parallel universe one, where the alternative timelines make for multiple perspectives and possibilities to play out. She deploys twelve scenarios, some blackly comic, some touching and tragic, others horrific- including the repercussions of a suicide pact and - in one case, she plays with the speculative fiction of cryogenics. This playful ‘what if The conundrum behind the title, as Ms Shriver describes it herself, is “how to live a long-enough life yet still go out in style?” The concept is the parallel universe one, where the alternative timelines make for multiple perspectives and possibilities to play out. She deploys twelve scenarios, some blackly comic, some touching and tragic, others horrific- including the repercussions of a suicide pact and - in one case, she plays with the speculative fiction of cryogenics. This playful ‘what if ?’ conceit also means that Shriver can employ her usual trenchant social criticism over a range of current issues, such as Brexit, immigration, political correctness and the Covid ‘pandemic’. Set in Britain, the American born Shriver is spot on with our geography, vernacular and politics because she has lived in the U.K. for nearly three decades. This is the 12th novel I’ve read by this author, and I’ve found it as much fun as she admits she had in writing it. Thanks go to the publisher for the ARC via NetGalley

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Should We Stay or Should We Go is moving, incisive, richly described literary fiction from one of my favourite writers, Lionel Shriver. It follows a married couple who decide they will take control of their final years by exiting the world together at the age of 80—with unexpected consequences and possibilities in New York Times bestselling author Lionel Shriver’s brilliantly conceived parallel-universe novel of sickness, marriage, old age and mortality reminiscent of The Post-Birthday World. Wh Should We Stay or Should We Go is moving, incisive, richly described literary fiction from one of my favourite writers, Lionel Shriver. It follows a married couple who decide they will take control of their final years by exiting the world together at the age of 80—with unexpected consequences and possibilities in New York Times bestselling author Lionel Shriver’s brilliantly conceived parallel-universe novel of sickness, marriage, old age and mortality reminiscent of The Post-Birthday World. When her father dies, Kay is relieved. For ten years, she watched helplessly as Alzheimer’s ravaged this once decorous man. Her husband of twenty-eight years, Cyril, found his brief exposure to her father’s decline intolerable. Healthy and full of vitality, both Kay and Cyril, now in their early 50s, fear what may lie ahead for them. One thing is certain: neither wants to die without dignity. To avert a similar fate, they make a pact: on Kay’s 80th birthday they will commit suicide together. Cyril, a doctor, acquires the means they will need to exit the world, a bottle of tablets they keep in a black box tucked away in the back of the fridge. Their deal is made in 1991. They will have thirty more years together. But as time passes and their “final” day approaches, doubts begin to arise. This is a captivating, tender and often sardonic read with a whole lot of heart and soul injected into it. It's deftly plotted and on such a poignant overarching theme I couldn't think of anyone better than to write this astonishing and touching tale about the fickle, fleeting nature of life, the fallibility of memory and the pitfalls of growing old. In it Shriver constructs twelve parallel universes, exploring multiple futures for the couple, some of which stray into speculative fiction (e.g. successful cryogenics, a cure for ageing), and I had an absolute ball reading this book, which may have a grim starting point, but which in its execution is playful, funny, and sometimes, life-affirming. Both timely and timeless, the intention of the story is serious—to examine the quandary of how to live a long enough life yet still go out in style. I can't resist Shriver’s writing, so I decided to forge ahead despite this being a topic I would usually avoid. I must say, it's heartbreaking and beautiful, poignant and surprisingly humorous and it goes without saying: exquisitely written with deft handling of sensitive issues. Among the topics it explores are living life to the full, dying with dignity, autonomy and suicide. It has emotional depth, but Shriver balances that against lighter quips throughout giving a perfect equilibrium between light and dark themes in this thoughtful, thought-provoking story. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    SueLucie

    I have long enjoyed Lionel Shriver’s work and her ability to cut to the heart of topical issues. Her writing is always elegant and so witty. She carries on in the same vein in this latest novel, turning her attention to ageing, and I found this really engaging, especially to begin with. But, as the publisher’s blurb says: Weaving in a host of contemporary issues - Brexit, mass migration, the coronavirus - Lionel Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn decea I have long enjoyed Lionel Shriver’s work and her ability to cut to the heart of topical issues. Her writing is always elegant and so witty. She carries on in the same vein in this latest novel, turning her attention to ageing, and I found this really engaging, especially to begin with. But, as the publisher’s blurb says: Weaving in a host of contemporary issues - Brexit, mass migration, the coronavirus - Lionel Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn deceased characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter. and this is where my problem with this book lies. Although of course I found the different situations Kay and Cyril experience sometimes entertaining, sometimes downright scary, always thought-provoking (I am thinking here of the cryogenics chapter particularly), overall I felt there were too many social issues crammed into too many possible scenarios, to the extent that by the end I failed to care about the outcome for the characters one jot. I don’t suppose LS intended us to care about them, but it came as a disappointment for me as I’d been invested in their dilemma in the first chapters. With thanks to HarperCollins, Borough Press via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Dagenhart

    Strong writing and an interesting premise: how to cope with declining health in old age? Although the suicide pact is a bit morbid, this tongue-in-cheek work started off strong. There was an opportunity here to treat serious topics with a bit of levity in a way that would have been truly memorable. For me, the first half of the book approaches that standard, and is probably a solid 4 stars. My only criticism of the beginning of the work is that there is a bit too much expository dialogue for a c Strong writing and an interesting premise: how to cope with declining health in old age? Although the suicide pact is a bit morbid, this tongue-in-cheek work started off strong. There was an opportunity here to treat serious topics with a bit of levity in a way that would have been truly memorable. For me, the first half of the book approaches that standard, and is probably a solid 4 stars. My only criticism of the beginning of the work is that there is a bit too much expository dialogue for a couple who have been married for decades. However, later on, as the situations Kay and Cyril find themselves in become more outlandish, for me, they become much less interesting, and I found myself powering through the end of the book out of a sense of duty rather than enjoyment. Note: I was provided a free advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cindy • leavemetomybooks•

    The concept of this book was very cool: alternate universes revolving around a couple (Cyril and Kay)'s decision whether or not to kill themselves on Kay's 80th birthday to spare themselves (and the NHS coffers) the indignities of aging. This reminded me a bit of Shriver's earlier book, The Post-Birthday World, but with many (too many) more alternative outcomes. Shriver is as snarky and witty as ever, but this book fell flat for me overall. Some of the alternates were just too kooky -- cryogenics The concept of this book was very cool: alternate universes revolving around a couple (Cyril and Kay)'s decision whether or not to kill themselves on Kay's 80th birthday to spare themselves (and the NHS coffers) the indignities of aging. This reminded me a bit of Shriver's earlier book, The Post-Birthday World, but with many (too many) more alternative outcomes. Shriver is as snarky and witty as ever, but this book fell flat for me overall. Some of the alternates were just too kooky -- cryogenics and anti-aging pills -- ugh -- and I get that the stay/leave of Brexit was a theme, but omg it was boring to read about it in detail, especially through the voice of Cyril who was such a bombastic know-it-all, and I did not love his Covid denier underpinnings either. This would be an interesting story to discuss with a book group, assuming everyone could make it through the entire book. I ended up skimming in parts because I just wanted it to be over. *Thank you to NetGalley and Harper for the review copy. Available June 8, 2021 *

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christina Dalcher

    Full disclosure: Lionel is one of my favorite people on earth. But I’m not giving this book five stars just because I happen to like her style. This is important reading, particularly for anyone with aging parents, or for anyone who’s aging (i.e., all of us). Both hilarious and horrifying, SHOULD WE STAY gets right to the heart of what it means to face our own inevitable fate and what it means to live well (as opposed to living long). Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate O'Shea

    God this woman is brilliant. A couple decide whilst in their 50s to kill themselves when they both reach 80. However once there they start to reevaluate. What follows is a collection of alternative beginnings, middles and endings. It's so beautifully written. I didn't find it hilarious but it is funny in parts. What it is, is absolutely brilliant. I loved The Motion of the Body Through Space. This is even better. She uses repetition and recurring themes so easily that you barely know she's doing God this woman is brilliant. A couple decide whilst in their 50s to kill themselves when they both reach 80. However once there they start to reevaluate. What follows is a collection of alternative beginnings, middles and endings. It's so beautifully written. I didn't find it hilarious but it is funny in parts. What it is, is absolutely brilliant. I loved The Motion of the Body Through Space. This is even better. She uses repetition and recurring themes so easily that you barely know she's doing it. Some dystopian, some almost utopian futures. Read it please, it's excellent.

  10. 5 out of 5

    AtomicBooks

    I went on a whole journey with this book. If I am honest when I first started this book it I didn’t like it, I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish it but then something big happened and I fell in love with the writing, the story and the characters, and I couldn’t put it down. It starts a bit like a play, a dialogue between two characters, Kay and Cyril, but then the story really opens up, as we enter a story somewhere between Groundhog Day and Sliding Doors. The story touches on so many things I went on a whole journey with this book. If I am honest when I first started this book it I didn’t like it, I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish it but then something big happened and I fell in love with the writing, the story and the characters, and I couldn’t put it down. It starts a bit like a play, a dialogue between two characters, Kay and Cyril, but then the story really opens up, as we enter a story somewhere between Groundhog Day and Sliding Doors. The story touches on so many things, it is in parts funny, sometimes sad, a little bit heartwarming with a big dose of political satire but ultimately it is a brilliant memorable read. Thank you to LoveReading for the ARC.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maryellen Woodside

    Wow! This book blew me away! Kay and Cyril Wilkinson are both in the medical field, he a doctor and she a nurse. After Kay's father dies from Alzheimer's, they make a pact to commit suicide on Kay's 80th birthday. Seems like a simple enough plot. But Shriver has presented several different endings to the story. Some of the ending are happy, others are downright scary. Loved it! Wow! This book blew me away! Kay and Cyril Wilkinson are both in the medical field, he a doctor and she a nurse. After Kay's father dies from Alzheimer's, they make a pact to commit suicide on Kay's 80th birthday. Seems like a simple enough plot. But Shriver has presented several different endings to the story. Some of the ending are happy, others are downright scary. Loved it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    Shriver's sharp-witted satire has become my favourite of her novels! I found it hilarious in parts, touching in others, disturbing in many sections, and creatively presented in structure and in thought. At the age of 55, Cyril and Kay Wilkinson agreed to end their lives when they reached 80, a double suicide to avoid the inevitable deterioration of their health, their loss of independence - "the process of whittling away what [they've] always done". Shriver presented 12 different scenarios (univ Shriver's sharp-witted satire has become my favourite of her novels! I found it hilarious in parts, touching in others, disturbing in many sections, and creatively presented in structure and in thought. At the age of 55, Cyril and Kay Wilkinson agreed to end their lives when they reached 80, a double suicide to avoid the inevitable deterioration of their health, their loss of independence - "the process of whittling away what [they've] always done". Shriver presented 12 different scenarios (universes), each portraying an alternative "ending" to their plan, each inventive and each connected in some way to the previous one. The structure of these "choose your own adventure"-like scenarios and the manner in which Shriver portrayed the possibilities of their decision to follow through with their plan or not, literally left me in awe of her imagination. What also entertained me was Shriver's perception of our present and future worlds with the complexities that have kept us awake at night worrying. She brilliantly explored Brexit, the COVID pandemic, mass immigration, health and aged care, economic catastrophe, cryogenic preservation and the impact of each of these on the lives of this professional, happily married couple. Her exploration of the social, political, economic and psychological implications of the choice to die with dignity and at the time one chooses made for a compelling read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kath

    My first thoughts about this book were along the lines of - finally, a book which manages to include the covid pandemic, not be about the pandemic, but also still works as a novel. Maybe that says more about me than the book and I am also not sure why this excites me so, but it does. When we first meet Kay she is mourning the loss of her father. I say mourning but it's not sadness. She is beyond that, she let him go years ago when Alzheimers took him. It was actually a relief when he eventually My first thoughts about this book were along the lines of - finally, a book which manages to include the covid pandemic, not be about the pandemic, but also still works as a novel. Maybe that says more about me than the book and I am also not sure why this excites me so, but it does. When we first meet Kay she is mourning the loss of her father. I say mourning but it's not sadness. She is beyond that, she let him go years ago when Alzheimers took him. It was actually a relief when he eventually died. This leads her to evaluate her own life and indeed death. And this leads to an interesting conversation with husband Cyril as to what they want to happen to them, before they get too old and become a burden. Still in their early 50s at the start of the book, they decide that they will end their lives on Kay's 80th birthday, her being a year younger. The lead up to which will be filled with all the things they want to cram into their lives before they go. Seems a good plan and things are ticking along nicely all the way up to the moment of truth... This book then splits into iterations of what happened next... Twelve parallel universes, each detailing a different way things could have gone, with very different outcomes. I can well see this book being a bit marmite, and as with such books, should also be a cracking book-club book as it does throw up a lot to debate. A lot of controversial topics too. Me, I loved it - you might have already guessed from the 5 stars. I simply whizzed through it, hanging off every word as it shocked, saddened, amused me in equal measure. It really is an emotional book all told. And also having got to know many sides and facets of both Kay and Cyril, I have to admit that I was a bit devastated to have to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. I'd love to hear more from them in the future - maybe what happened up to their 50th years. They have three children - all very different so I think plenty of background for storylines. Anyway, back to this book and I have a few favourite "endings" for our duo but I am not sure how much to divulge here - some of which are mentioned in the blurb so I am safe to mention two such favourites were the dodgy retirement home and the cryogenic one. Fabulous! All in all a cracking read which I have no hesitation to recommend. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver is a very highly recommended satirical novel featuring twelve alternate universes in which a couple take the time of their demise into their own hands. After her father dies, Kay Wilkinson only feels relief after helping care for him during his prolonged illness with Alzheimer’s. Kay is a nurse and Cyril, her husband, is a doctor. Between them, over the years they have seen many elderly patients with declining health issues. Kay and Cyril, in their Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver is a very highly recommended satirical novel featuring twelve alternate universes in which a couple take the time of their demise into their own hands. After her father dies, Kay Wilkinson only feels relief after helping care for him during his prolonged illness with Alzheimer’s. Kay is a nurse and Cyril, her husband, is a doctor. Between them, over the years they have seen many elderly patients with declining health issues. Kay and Cyril, in their early fifties, discuss what may lie ahead for them when Cyril makes a proposal that they should agree to set the time of their death on their own terms at a time of their choosing. They decide that the time will be when they both reach age eighty. Three decades later the time of their choosing has arrived and Shriver gives us twelve alternate endings to the story in parallel universes. Each ending features a different choice and a different ending for Kay and Cyril. It is satirical fun. Sure, it is perhaps a bit morbid at times, but still each ironic future for them is vastly different. Some of their outcomes are based closer to reality while others veer toward science fiction. As reading I appreciated the idea that we can't predict the future, what our life will be like, or how we will feel about it when we are there. The time for Kay and Cyril's exit is to occur in 2020. Shriver, who is known for often including her opinions on current topics in her novels, includes current events in Should We Stay or Should We Go. These include, in part, immigration, cancel culture, the pandemic, political correctness, and Brexit. In a perfect humorous passage, Shriver writes herself into the novel, much to my pleasure and enjoyment: “Please tell me you’re not listening to that Shriver woman,” Kay groans to Cyril. “She’s a hysteric. And so annoyingly smug, as if she wants civilization to collapse.” The multiple perspectives on multiple timelines was very successful for me. Certainly some of their endings were more successful or gratifying to read than others, but that seems to be the point of the matter. You can't always know the value of your life, what will happen in the future, and what other factors will come into play. Should we embrace exercising free choice or accept what life/fate has to offer? Each alternate ending introduces a whole different set of issues and twists - some good, some awful, some realistic, some implausible - but reading through all of them was enjoyable. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2021/0...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susan Dunker

    This book was a whirlwind of emotions, fantasies, realities, ruminations on life and death. It was wonderful. I wish to go to the end of my life as wisely and wildly as Cyril and Kay do.

  16. 4 out of 5

    LS

    Lionel Shriver is one of the strongest contemporary writers on the market. Every time I read one of her books, I marvel at the rhythm of her sentences, her penetrating insight, and her intelligent prose. Last year's novel, THE MOTION OF THE BODY THROUGH SPACE, was the best book I read during the pandemic. It was the first time I had laughed out loud in months. She's a brilliant satirist. This new novel, SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO, takes a maudlin idea--the concept of aging--and approaches it Lionel Shriver is one of the strongest contemporary writers on the market. Every time I read one of her books, I marvel at the rhythm of her sentences, her penetrating insight, and her intelligent prose. Last year's novel, THE MOTION OF THE BODY THROUGH SPACE, was the best book I read during the pandemic. It was the first time I had laughed out loud in months. She's a brilliant satirist. This new novel, SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO, takes a maudlin idea--the concept of aging--and approaches it from every angle possible. She also weaves in a lot of current topics (like Brexit, climate change, racism, and other politically-charged subjects) and satirizes them in her very pointed but honest way. Shriver doesn't hold back. Her wit is razor-sharp, and she pulls no punches. Once again, Shriver uses a parallel universe structure to tell her story. The book revolves around Kay and Cyril, an aging couple who make a pact to commit suicide on Kay's 80th birthday. Each chapter shows a different path that their suicide pact could take. Some of the chapters are more grounded in reality than others. A few of the later chapters delve into sci fi, an approach I found startling and less successful than some of the earlier chapters. But as usual, Shriver was trying to point out some of the ridiculousness of humanity. Read this book for its insights and its pointed satire. But if you don't like it, don't give up on Shriver. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and THE POST-BIRTHDAY WORLD are two of the best books I've ever read, and I still think about them more than ten years later. I won an ARC for this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to devour this novel before its publication.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Lamont

    Well of course I had to read this because of the name. Because my husband of almost-23 years got to see The Clash at a music festival in Jamaica long, long before we met, and because I am still crippled with covetousness decades later. Although? I did get to party with Jimmy Cliff one time, at a house in the area of the-then-Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. Odd how time plays tricks on the mind; can't remember if it was before or after the show. Now, back to the real topic at hand. This book, I think, was Well of course I had to read this because of the name. Because my husband of almost-23 years got to see The Clash at a music festival in Jamaica long, long before we met, and because I am still crippled with covetousness decades later. Although? I did get to party with Jimmy Cliff one time, at a house in the area of the-then-Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. Odd how time plays tricks on the mind; can't remember if it was before or after the show. Now, back to the real topic at hand. This book, I think, was better in concept than execution. Chapters of it were good, certain selections of it were delightful and/or laugh-out-loud funny, but? Quite frankly, it went on _way_ too long. And while some of the scenarios were completely plausible, others caused me to roll my eyes so far back in my head they got stuck. I found myself wondering, after finishing the book, if my perspective on it would be different had I read it at 75 instead of 55..... Quite likely, yeah. Also? I could totally see this as a Netflix or Prime short-run series. Totally.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    When I typed in this title, another book with the same title came up, one about Brexit. I had not made that connection, but Shriver does mention Brexit often in her book, as yet another stay/go decision. Brexit, however, is a much more removed version of the personal stay/go decision being made by an aging couple. What will the rest of life hold? Is it worth waiting around to see, or would it be better to make a pre-emptive move to end it all? I love Shriver's books because they keep me thinking When I typed in this title, another book with the same title came up, one about Brexit. I had not made that connection, but Shriver does mention Brexit often in her book, as yet another stay/go decision. Brexit, however, is a much more removed version of the personal stay/go decision being made by an aging couple. What will the rest of life hold? Is it worth waiting around to see, or would it be better to make a pre-emptive move to end it all? I love Shriver's books because they keep me thinking long after I've finished them. She is an astute chronicler of the human condition, and the way she puts things makes me more aware of things that would have otherwise just hovered in the periphery. This book is set up in an interesting way. Think "choose your own adventure", only it's "choose your own ending". There are a variety of options of how things go--assisted suicide, life in a luxurious care home, life in an awful care home, cryogenics, etc. It reminded me of a villanelle, where things appear again in a different place and add depth by their reappearance. For instance, the couple's kiss is described as a felt mallet striking a cymbal, and this phrase occurs at crucial moments in a way that renders it triumphant, bittersweet, or downright depressing. Read it! Think about your own death! And how you'll live up till it happens!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Payel Kundu

    Lionel Shriver’s books are often organized around some central topical issue, which often makes them thought provoking. In her earlier books (notably We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Mandibles, So Much for That, and Big Brother), there’s a strong effort to integrate these issues pleasingly into a beautiful and memorable story. I started to see hints of a worrying disregard for the narrative and the increase of shrill and naked harping in some of the stories in Property. With The Motion of the Bo Lionel Shriver’s books are often organized around some central topical issue, which often makes them thought provoking. In her earlier books (notably We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Mandibles, So Much for That, and Big Brother), there’s a strong effort to integrate these issues pleasingly into a beautiful and memorable story. I started to see hints of a worrying disregard for the narrative and the increase of shrill and naked harping in some of the stories in Property. With The Motion of the Body Through Space, we see a novel comprised almost entirely of very artificial and didactic dialogue between characters, who seem to be hand puppets for Shriver’s views, or comically (unintentionally I think) one-dimensional foils. I respected Shriver so much as a writer that I thought that novel was a reflection of a hard year and an artistic misstep. I picked this latest book up eagerly hoping to see my old friend Good Writer Lionel Shriver again. I hated this book so much I think I might finally stop reading Shriver’s books, after being an avid fan for more than 10 years. This book returns repeatedly to the theme that living a long life isn’t intrinsically valuable. Wouldn’t it be better to step out gracefully at your peak rather than sully that memory with years of dependency and incompetence? That’s exactly how I’m starting to feel about Shriver’s body of work. Shriver structures this book as a series of possible alternatives given different circumstances. Unfortunately, while this could have been an interesting choice, it gives her carte blanche for her recently favored “characters as hand puppets” style, and exonerates her from having to spend effort on character development and narrative building/progression. I’m not sure if Shriver is trending towards such one-dimensional depictions of issues because she finds it sells well, because she’s lost her critical thinking and communication skills, or if she just thinks readers won’t know any better. It’s possible she’s trying to be funny, but I feel that’s an overly generous interpretation of most of the book, though some of the dialogue is clearly meant to read as excessively blithe dark humor. When Cyril and Kay are forcibly checked into a care home, the proprietor is as invariably sadistic as a Captain Planet villain. It’s like Shriver wants to make sure readers don’t have to exercise any moral thinking. The proprietor is a baddie, that’s very clear. Some of the aspects of the book that fell especially flat could have been partially rescued if it was revealed that the alternate realities were just Kay and Cyril speculating about what might be. Then the evil care home woman and the totally slap dash attempts at futuristic sci fi could be interpreted as droll humor, adding a sort of meta appeal, but they're not presented like that. They're just presented as alternative timelines. I understand that Shriver might be shooting for the satire genre, but it isn't smart satire. It just comes off as scathing and lazy. In short, I’m very disappointed that I can no longer count myself among Shriver’s fans. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    LindyLouMac

    ‘With Should We Stay or Should We Go’, a title that has me humming The Clash song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, Lionel Shriver has produced a thought provoking and intelligently written novel about a dilemma of the current times. The topic of ageing and how Kay and Cyril Wilkinson, both medical professionals decide how they will cope is the basis of the novel. Having decided in 1991 whilst in their fifties, the couple planned to enter a suicide pact together when they reached eighty. Exactly ho ‘With Should We Stay or Should We Go’, a title that has me humming The Clash song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, Lionel Shriver has produced a thought provoking and intelligently written novel about a dilemma of the current times. The topic of ageing and how Kay and Cyril Wilkinson, both medical professionals decide how they will cope is the basis of the novel. Having decided in 1991 whilst in their fifties, the couple planned to enter a suicide pact together when they reached eighty. Exactly how this pans out for them makes for a sometimes disturbing read, but also with humour along the way. Social criticism at its best, with Covid19, Brexit, Migration, Suicide Pacts and Human Longevity all covered in the twelve different scenarios that the author presents to us. In conclusion this novel is at times a horrendous insight into the pitfalls of old age, if you are no longer fit and healthy with all your faculties. Light and dark a read that will both entertain and provoke, highly recommended. https://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogsp...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I quite enjoyed this. Kay and Cyril are a successful middle class couple in London. Her dad passes after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Kay and Cyril make a pact for a double suicide when she turns 80 so that neither they nor their family need suffer their old age. But...Shriver creates 12 different endings to this proposition and sets them against a backdrop of Brexit and Covid 19. Some seem preposterous, some very sad, and some perfectly reasonable. A good read. I quite enjoyed this. Kay and Cyril are a successful middle class couple in London. Her dad passes after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Kay and Cyril make a pact for a double suicide when she turns 80 so that neither they nor their family need suffer their old age. But...Shriver creates 12 different endings to this proposition and sets them against a backdrop of Brexit and Covid 19. Some seem preposterous, some very sad, and some perfectly reasonable. A good read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    SusanT

    Disappointing. I struggled to finish this. The first 50 pages or so were mildly enjoyable but the "science fiction" endings were just silly. Also, if one is going to write at length about dementia, one should have a better understanding of the disease. I thought the portrayal of the father racing about rather far fetched. End stage patients are generally off their feet as their motor function is impaired, not needing to be coaxed down off ladders or needing 3 people to contol them. A day spent i Disappointing. I struggled to finish this. The first 50 pages or so were mildly enjoyable but the "science fiction" endings were just silly. Also, if one is going to write at length about dementia, one should have a better understanding of the disease. I thought the portrayal of the father racing about rather far fetched. End stage patients are generally off their feet as their motor function is impaired, not needing to be coaxed down off ladders or needing 3 people to contol them. A day spent in a dementia ward might have been research time well spent but i guess impossible during the Covid lockdown. I enjoyed Shriver's last work and find her right wing angles quite entertaining, but this was quite frankly quickly churned out trash.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robin Brown

    I know this was a satire but it seemed more silly than satirical.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    I have been a big fan of Lionel Shriver for many, many years now, but after reading so many of her books, I'm developing a picture of the author as somewhat severe character. A sort of Tilda Swinton of the literary world. (And not because Swinton starred in the adaptation of her most well-known book,We Need to Talk About Kevin). No, Shriver's characters go to extremes, whether it's diet, exercise, finance, or yes, Kevin and his deeply ambivalent mother. And that is again the case in Should We St I have been a big fan of Lionel Shriver for many, many years now, but after reading so many of her books, I'm developing a picture of the author as somewhat severe character. A sort of Tilda Swinton of the literary world. (And not because Swinton starred in the adaptation of her most well-known book,We Need to Talk About Kevin). No, Shriver's characters go to extremes, whether it's diet, exercise, finance, or yes, Kevin and his deeply ambivalent mother. And that is again the case in Should We Stay or Should We Go. The novel opens with a couple in their early fifties (my age exactly), discussing the death of the wife's father after an extended and truly horrific decline into dementia (which my family is experiencing now). They make a pact to take their own lives when they turn eighty (which my mom will do in four months), in order to spare themselves, their families, and the National Health Service. After all, eighty seems a long way off--until you're staring down the barrel of your final birthday. What follows is a series of vignettes exploring every conceivable outcome of this pact, and several that are inconceivable! Ms. Shriver is exploring very serious subject matter, but she is--dare I say it?--having fun with it. As someone for whom this resonates all to closely, I was grateful for the chance to think about this subject divorced from the drama and emotional baggage that generally accompanies it. Say what you will about Ms. Shriver and her work, you can't claim that she's writing the same old thing. And she always manages to leave me with some food for thought.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Kay and her husband, Cyril, have seen too many elderly patients suffer endlessly as they slowly approach the end of the lives. While in their 50’s, they decide that quality of life is preferable to quantity, and make a pact to end their lives together once they hit the age of 80. It seems logical and besides, the year 2020 is so far in the future, it doesn’t seem real. Yet 2020 does arrive, and so does the agreed upon suicide date. Cyril has never wavered in his belief that this is the way to go, Kay and her husband, Cyril, have seen too many elderly patients suffer endlessly as they slowly approach the end of the lives. While in their 50’s, they decide that quality of life is preferable to quantity, and make a pact to end their lives together once they hit the age of 80. It seems logical and besides, the year 2020 is so far in the future, it doesn’t seem real. Yet 2020 does arrive, and so does the agreed upon suicide date. Cyril has never wavered in his belief that this is the way to go, but as the date approaches Kay begins to have niggling doubts. Should they stay, or should they go? Each chapter explores different scenarios, according to what happens that fateful night. What happens if they both abort the mission? Or if only one of them does? There’s even a sci-fi possibility. All are entertaining (although some chapters are better than others) and Shriver really does pull the reader through situations that make you laugh or are so unbearably sad you want to cry. There’s a lot of room for anger here too, directed both at Cyril and the “system” in general. This novel is not what I expected. It’s described as both hilarious and touching, and it is, but it is also most definitely a much more literary novel than I thought it would be. Brexit is discussed at length, as is Britain’s health care system, mass immigration and racism. This is also the first novel I’ve read that directly incorporates the Covid-19 pandemic into the storyline. I wouldn’t have expected a story about two 80-year olds ending their lives to be “light”, but there’s a lot more meat to the story than expected. Definitely not a fun beach read! 3.5 stars rounded up. And the cover is perfect!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    Maybe it's because I'm 80, soon to be 81, and though it may not appeal to everyone, this book just grabbed me. At the beginning of the book, in 1991, Kay's father has just died of Alzheimer's after a particularly ghastly, protracted period of decline. After dealing with the aftermath of her father's death, she and Cyril make a pact that on Kay's 80th birthday, they will commit suicide together. When the time comes, the story veers into an amazing direction: each of the succeeding chapters imagin Maybe it's because I'm 80, soon to be 81, and though it may not appeal to everyone, this book just grabbed me. At the beginning of the book, in 1991, Kay's father has just died of Alzheimer's after a particularly ghastly, protracted period of decline. After dealing with the aftermath of her father's death, she and Cyril make a pact that on Kay's 80th birthday, they will commit suicide together. When the time comes, the story veers into an amazing direction: each of the succeeding chapters imagines various paths Kay and Cyril might take. Things seem pretty grim during the first 50 pages of the novel, but then the story move into amazing pathways, some of them laugh-out-loud funny, some sad and tender, others horrifying. Shriver does an amazing job of incorporating real life events into the various possible pathways: Brexit, the worldwide immigration problems, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, Covid-19. I must say, I enjoyed reading it as much as any book I've read this year. It's rare to read something that makes you burst into laughter at some points and weep sad tears at others. Thought-provoking, moving, ridiculous, sad, wry and knowing, all at once! Highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paul Strebe

    I didn't initially like this, but it grew on me in a way I didn't expect and I really enjoyed it at the end (and not because it was done). I'm definitely not a fan of science fiction or Ayn Rand-y garbage, so this was a surprise. The negative: First, why is the title a rip off of a Clash song? Seems lazy. Also, I knew this woman was a Yank, but her narrative was almost over-the-top British English ("whilst" and "dust bin" and that crap) that just irritated me. It was almost like a parody of how A I didn't initially like this, but it grew on me in a way I didn't expect and I really enjoyed it at the end (and not because it was done). I'm definitely not a fan of science fiction or Ayn Rand-y garbage, so this was a surprise. The negative: First, why is the title a rip off of a Clash song? Seems lazy. Also, I knew this woman was a Yank, but her narrative was almost over-the-top British English ("whilst" and "dust bin" and that crap) that just irritated me. It was almost like a parody of how Americans think Brits talk. Also, the first quarter of the book seemed like just her having a long exposition with her husband over details that most couples wouldn't normally discuss -- it seemed silly and contrived. Why not have one of their kids visit so she can talk to them? Or a friend? Just SOME character other than her husband. Finally, I hate that she refers to her actual public self three-quarters of the way through. How needy is this fake stiff-up-lip Yank? But... The positive: The scenarios were thought-provoking in most cases, even if a bit depressing. Her writing is clever and funny in many cases. I think it would make a fun movie.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Should the death of a parent come as a relief? For Kay Wilkinson, over ten years of Alzheimer’s destroyed her once erudite and intelligent father, and the burden of care fell squarely on Kay and her mother, so after such a gruellingly hard and desperately sad ten years, her father’s death is exactly that: a relief. To the extent that she can’t even cry about it. Kay and her husband Cyril are both in their fifties, working as medics and enjoying good health, but, they have seen too many of their e Should the death of a parent come as a relief? For Kay Wilkinson, over ten years of Alzheimer’s destroyed her once erudite and intelligent father, and the burden of care fell squarely on Kay and her mother, so after such a gruellingly hard and desperately sad ten years, her father’s death is exactly that: a relief. To the extent that she can’t even cry about it. Kay and her husband Cyril are both in their fifties, working as medics and enjoying good health, but, they have seen too many of their elderly NHS patients in similar states of decay to Kay’s father. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril proposes that they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned eighty. When their deal is sealed in 1991, the couple are looking forward to another three decades together, and their agreement is largely ignored for the whole of that time, but then they turn eighty, and they have to face the implications of the pact they made. In this "Sliding Doors" meets "Life After Life" novel, each successive chapter offers a different “ending” for Kay and Cyril, as the intertwined issues of how to cope with declining health in old age, and the dilemma of how to go out in style at the optimum time are explored. A wide range of scenarios play out – some are happy, some most definitely are not – and these different endings rehearse an equally diverse spectrum of philosophies and attitudes to the subject: Is suicide a cop out; surely it is braver and more noble to lose everything by degrees and take what comes? Or, is it better to postpone suicide if you’re still hale and hearty at 80, live your best older age life until you can’t and then make an exit? Or, should one take decisive action, even before decrepitude has set in, in order to retain control over one’s own destiny? No spoilers here, but it is safe to say that the subject, in all its aspects, is explored comprehensively within the novel, along with a menu of other contemporary issues of the day such as Brexit, the pandemic and elderly care. So is it a good read? Well, it is fair to say that this very much an issue-driven novel rather than character-driven, and inevitably, given the subject of the book, there are potential triggers around old age, illness, suicide and elder-abuse/elderly care, which may be distressing for some. It is written with Lionel Shriver’s usual shrewd eye, her observational skills and trademark mordant wit, so there are many apt and pithy quotes to enjoy. Overall I found this to be a very readable and thought-provoking novel, and it is the kind of book which leaves you chewing things over in your mind long after you have finished it. Thank you to The Borough Press via NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for a review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Nolan

    This book struck me as one part stereotyped characters, one part political agenda grandstanding and one part gratuitous Covid-19 references.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    A good book! Interesting, written by a very mature and experienced writer. An important (necessary) read for mature readers. So much truth and reality in this latest book by one of my favorite writers. Great!

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