cover image Make It Stay

Make It Stay

Joan Frank. Permanent, $26 (164p) ISBN 978-1-57962-227-5

Frank’s latest (after In Envy Country) is a poignant if narrow portrait of love, friendship, and mortality. In a bohemian Northern California town, writer Rachel Blum ruminates on the life of Mike Spender, oldest friend of her straight-laced lawyer husband, Neil. Years ago, during a trip to Tahiti, Mike saved Neil’s life, a favor that Neil has repaid with dogged loyalty: Neil was Mike’s best man at his wedding; cherished his role as uncle to Mike’s daughter, Addie; and dutifully assisted the family through an assortment of legal, marital, and health crises. When Rachel entered the picture, marrying Neil late in life, her gratitude for having finally found love is tainted by the separation she feels from his friends and her reservations about Mike’s womanizing. When tragedy strikes, Rachel finds her own marriage cast into an upheaval she struggles to understand. Frank’s novel is a meditation on the collision between an enduring friendship and a singular marriage, both of them, in ways, life-saving. Frank breathes life into these relationships through painterly, sometimes florid, vignettes. Her prose has the impressionistic quality of poetry, an indulgence that at times derails the story, yet skillfully distills the zeal and alienation of a midlife love attenuated by distance and grief. (Mar.)