Should We Stay or Should We Go

Lionel Shriver. Harper, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-309424-6
Shriver (The Motion of the Body Through Space) delivers on a high-concept premise full of alternative narratives based around themes of illness and aging. In 1991, over a “fateful sherry,” Londoners Cyril and Kay Wilkinson, both still in perfectly good health, make a pact to end their lives when they turn 80 (she, in 2020; he, in 2021). There is no satire or irony in Cyril’s Swiftean “modest proposal,” as Shriver terms it. Rather, they’re propelled by watching Kay’s parents linger through years of dementia, going from “deterioration” to “degradation” toward an intolerable decline that they don’t want for themselves. Shriver tackles the next decades until their “use-by” date with her usual aplomb, offering 12 alternate scenarios. (It is not a spoiler to reveal that in some instances they live well beyond their 80s.) Years progress from the “surprising to the implausible” to the “incredible” and the “impossible” as the Wilkinsons balk and consider every possibility from assisted living to cryogenics, debating the free choice to end one’s life and the purpose or value of living. There is sometimes outlandish humor and periods of magical thinking in their dialogue, all rendered to brilliant effect. Readers will be entranced by Shriver’s freewheeling meditation on mortality and human agency. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (June)
Reviewed on : 03/18/2021
Release date: 06/08/2021
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-309426-0
MP3 CD - 978-1-6650-9696-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-6650-9695-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-6650-9694-2
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-06-311890-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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