Ella is nearing thirty, and not yet living the life she imagined. Her artistic ambitions have given way to an unintended career in caregiving. One spring, Bryn—a retired carpenter—hires her to help him care for Jill, his wife of many years. A car accident caused a brain injury that has left Jill verbally diminished. As Ella is drawn ever deeper into the couple's household, she is profoundly moved by the tenderness Bryn shows toward the wife he still fiercely loves.
... quietly wonderful ... Like her unforgettable main character, Ms. Savage addresses these moral dilemmas with no judgment whatsoever, but rather a kind of awe at her own temerity in even thinking about them ... will likely make you cry, as well, but this is a rare novel in which such responses feel clean and ennobling, free from manipulation. It is a book written for the better angels of our nature.
... poetic yet prosaic ... Savage follows the opposite arcs of these women with such kindness (that’s the only word for it), even the most difficult moments of the story feel buffered by grace. Savage was a professional caregiver for 10 years before she became a writer. Reading this slim, elegant book, one has the sense that she has carried the most important skills from that job into her new line of work.
What Savage has created is extremely rare in the pages of contemporary fiction: a millennial woman narrator whose mind is not broken ... Page after page, we simply sit with Ella as she sits with Jill. And yet the book is never dull, because Savage continually draws and redraws her heroine’s emotional attachments like an ever-evolving diagram ... surgically well-expressed ... In writing the character of Ella, Savage offers us a political argument: that women who labor in the home and principally care for others can grow in intellectual value because of, not in spite of, their occupations ... Savage creates new configurations of women’s self-love, based on human connection. One of those women may be damaged by brain injury and unable to speak, but there is still enough care to keep the flame alive.