Review: Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong

Hold Still.jpgSelected by The Huffington Post as one of the 32 Books to Add to Your Shelf in 2016, Lynn Steger Strong’s heartbreaking Hold Still depicts a young woman’s journey towards a fatal mistake, and examines the culpability of its characters. It’s about family, and the depths and limits of the ties that bind.

Steger’s debut is told from two perspectives in separate timelines: the past and present, or pre-catastrophe and post-catastrophe, if you prefer – with various flashbacks in between. Stephen and Maya Taylor are vaunted Columbia professors, and from the outside, you’d imagine they have the perfect family. We assume success breeds success; that it inevitably  rubs off on the people surrounded by it, or born into it. But that’s not always the case, and the Taylor children – Ben and Ellie – are struggling to live up to expectations.  On the one hand, Ben is like any college kid: he’s questioning his choices, deliberating over the direction in which his life is headed. His problems are manageable, though irksome to his father. But Ellie – she has real problems, has fallen in with a bad crowd, and is developing a drug habit. She’s nosediving, and may not be able to pull out of it; even worse, she may not want to, has accepted her destiny and is ready to crash and burn. Not that Stephen and Maya are exactly flawless. They have issues of their own, camouflaged by their professions, veiled in public, but flare to life in the privacy of their own home. They have passed their imperfections onto their children, somehow magnified and twisted.

In a last ditch effort to revive her daughter, Maya send Ellie to Florida to look after a friend’s child. It’s a chance to step away from the dark tendrils pulling her closer to oblivion in New York; a fresh start, a chance to rebuild. But just as it appears Ellie is getting back on track, she makes a fatal mistake. And years later, the Taylor family is dealing with the consequences, struggling to cope with the guilt over the choices they’ve made, their fractured relationships, and the irreparable damage they’ve caused to the life of a young mother.

Lynn Steger Strong’s characters are beguilingly human, full of good intentions that pave the way to the very worst kind of hell. Hold Still is powerful, melancholy, and devastating. You will read it in a single burst, and it will resonate for a long, long time.

ISBN: 9781631491689
Format: Hardback (210mm x 140mm x mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Publish Date: 28-Mar-2016
Country of Publication: United States

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