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Should We Stay or Should We Go

Lionel Shriver

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02 June 2021
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ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Cyril and Kay have spent their working lives in the NHS, as doctor and nurse, and have solid socialist principles. They also have three children, an increasingly valuable big house and a secret pact to end their lives when they reach 80. They made the agreement when they were 50, after Kay had watched her father struggle with dementia for a decade and vowed not to end up like him. Life goes on  - and then they reach their self-agreed end date… Eleven different futures unfold. They range from heavily dystopian to thoroughly fairy-tale, and all the degrees in-between (including a cryogenic future). I will admit to finding the first chapter overly didactic and slightly tedious, but persevere! This has some very interesting things to say about ageing, the possible directions of society, and attitudes to the elderly, and is in turn entertaining, ironic, pointed, engrossing, tragic and playful.  Lindy

The Cassandra of American letters. -New York Times When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can't cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer's had steadily eroded this erudite man. Surely one's own father passing should never come as such a relief?

Both healthy and vital medical professionals in their early fifties, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many of their elderly NHS patients in similar states of decay. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal: they should agree to commit suicide together once they've both turned eighty. When their deal is sealed in 1991, 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, from a purgatorial Cuckoo's-Nest-style retirement home to the discovery of a cure for ageing, from cryogenic preservation to the unexpected pleasures of dementia.

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.
By:   Lionel Shriver
Imprint:   HARPER360
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 221mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 22mm
Weight:   340g
ISBN:   9780008458560
ISBN 10:   0008458561
Pages:   288
Publication Date:   02 June 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Lionel Shriver's novels include the National Book Award finalist So Much for That, the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World, and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian and the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.

Reviews for Should We Stay or Should We Go

'Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver. A married couple decide on a suicide pact to avoid the indignities of old age, in a satire on society's attitudes to ageing that plays with multiple endings' Guardian, 2021 in Books: What to Look Forward to this Year 'A work of undeniable moral seriousness, yet one that's never just a series of (admittedly juicy) discussion points. Even the most fantastical outcomes are envisaged with exhilarating thoroughness - while Cyril and Kay remain the same richly conceived characters throughout. Despite the grimness of the premise, the book also offers the stirring sight of a writer clearly enjoying herself. There are plenty of good jokes and several playful references to Shriver's previous fiction... In a recent newspaper questionnaire, Shriver said that her favourite novels are those that pack both an intellectual and emotional punch. With Should We Stay or Should We Go, she's added triumphantly to their number' The Times 'It's hideous - but also hilarious. Through the potent spell of Shriver's language, horror gets alchemised into amusement. Fiery phrases spit and crackle. Disgust expands and bursts into belly laughs... a very funny book' Sunday Times 'After a (pun intended) deathly start, Shriver's typically provocative novel manages to be both entertaining and poignant, with the novelist even poking fun at herself as she questions what makes a good innings. It might (almost) be a beach read' Daily Mail 'Readers will be entranced by Shriver's freewheeling meditation on mortality and human agency' Publishers Weekly

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