Every once in a while, I come across a book that doesn’t quite fit into the normal mold of what I tend to read, but which blows me away. Stray is one of those books. The story follows Terry, Marc, and Dan as they struggle to deal with their individual problems and with young adulthood. Each character is flawed in their own way, and their flaws resonate as believable and real; one’s we have within ourselves at one point or another in our lives.

Written from a first person narrative, we see the world and experience the story through Terry’s eyes. Terry has a sharp wit coupled with a sometimes nasty tongue and isn’t afraid to use either, especially on the stray Marc, his best mate, brought to their home. Daniel becomes an immediate thorn in Terry’s side and he makes no bones about his assumption about how Daniel and Marc met and his distaste for Dan’s presence in their home. As the story progresses, we watch Terry struggle with his overly biting remarks and behavior. We question why he is so tough and hard-shelled on the outside when snippets of a kind and caring person can be seen on the inside, especially through Daniel’s behavior towards him.

Daniel is the opposite. He wears his heart on his sleeve, leaving him vulnerable and sensitive to the scathing treatment her receives from Terry. But he is relentless, knowing what he wants and what he sees in Terry. Younger than both Terry and Marc, Dan is slightly immature and can be vindictive, but the sweetness in him is unmistakable.

What I loved about
Stray was how the story, through the inclusion of imperfect characters, struck a chord at once believable and real. I have known (and been) both Terry and Daniel at one point in my life. Watching their struggles and feelings evolve and the decisions they make was an emotional journey; an experience of thinking about people and how life changes us rather than a sporty plot line for a pleasant read. Stray certainly had a strong plot and was pleasant to read, but it was also difficult, and sad at times.

In speaking with Ash, a member of my writing group, she explained she wanted to read a story where the characters weren’t perfectly likable. In the absence of any books that fit the bill, she opted to write one herself. The result is a book that forces you to think and reflect, to accept some darker realities, but to see how even dark experiences can lead to something good and positive.

Beyond being a lovely read, this thought-provoking book is a definite must read. Once you start, you won’t be able to put it down.


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