*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Strays
Author: Emily Bitto
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Canada
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Lily, the narrator, takes on a fly-on-the-wall role in this story. Her role as the narrator is not to tell her own story, but to share the story of the Trentham family. We’re as distant from her as she feels from her own family. It’s hard to get to know her because her words are observations of the goings on around her. She loves this world where she is accepted without question–although the reader sees this as something akin to neglect. She can escape her own world by letting the Trentham family consume her. Lily is a vessel for this story.
I found the book to be a little chaotic. There are a lot of relationships taking place: Lily and Eva, the Trenthams, the artists that come to reside in the home, Lily and her parents, Eva’s sisters. It’s a whirlwind, but I think that’s the point. I think that Bitto shares this world through the eyes of a growing child. She doesn’t fully understand the world around her, but through this book, she comes to learn things both beautiful and horrible.
There are some pretty tough themes and topics dealt with in this book, and I don’t know if they are fully resolved. I didn’t feel completely satisfied in the end. I wanted more. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for a happy ending, but this is a story so turbulent that a happy ending may not be possible. Bitto has an alluring writing style and I thoroughly enjoyed the way she presents her world and her characters. However, it’s not a book that made me happy. It talks about many upsetting things, presented through the eyes of a child who’s ignorance prevents her–at least until she’s older–from fully understanding.