Rating: 4 / 5
Lila Savage’s Say Say Say is the gentle, moving story of a young woman silently pondering her place in the world as she provides care for a woman inflicted with brain damage.
Thank you to A.A. Knopf for this free book!
Ella fell into her role as a caregiver, but she’s very good at it. Amicable, patient, and a great listener, she may have been born to be an in-home caregiver, but she doesn’t feel like it. What she really wants is to be an artist, but she just can’t bring herself to work on her craft. And so, she begins working for a new family after the inevitable letting go of her last job. That is the nature of the profession, after all – the family member needing care dies or is moved to a more substantial facility.
Bryn and Jill seemed to have lived a beautiful life, until Jill was in an accident and sustained severe brain damage. She continues to regress, and so Bryn brings Ella on to care for her while he runs errands a few times a week. Jill doesn’t like or trust Ella, but she doesn’t take this personally. What she does take personally is her ability to keep Jill safe, and what Bryn thinks of her.
Self-doubting yet capable, Ella spends a year with Jill and Bryn – being pushed further and further away from her and drawn closer and closer to him. Say Say Say is a meditation on the deepest truths of care giving and of tender desire.
Please take caution while reading Say Say Say if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Death or dying
Say Say Say is a sharply insightful, yet beautifully tender story of providing care. Bryn lovingly cares for his constantly regressing wife without hesitation; Ella cares both for Jill with precision, attempted gentleness, and an effort that Jill’s hostility requires and for Bryn, who wants – if not needs – emotional support and a lent ear.
Short and so sweet, this story is filled with emotion. Savage packs so much into the 161 pages – sorrow, grief, frustration, affection, and stagnation, to name a few. She tackles death and mental disability and deterioration with such tender humanity that you can’t help but respect both Ella and Jill during their year together.
Caring for Jill is only one part of Ella’s life, albeit an important one, and thus Say Say Say also delves into her personal life – her relationship and sexuality, doubts and dreams. I imagine the story’s coverage of job versus personal life match the amount of time Ella spends thinking about each. It’s clear that she’s invested in her job, sometimes too much.
Say Say Say is refreshingly insightful and gentle. The writing is beautiful and literary, and it forces you to reflect deeply on the story. This book is the perfect combination of hard and soft and is the perfect length for the weight it carries.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Say Say Say. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!