When Love Sticks Around contains first-person vignettes woven into a montage incorporating universal themes of family, love and belonging. It tracks Danielle Dayney’s childhood in Toledo to her married life in Detroit and New York.
As a child the author didn’t recognise her family’s poverty, stating that her mother – a stalwart support within her blended family – ‘couldn’t afford much fresh food, but … kept us fed’. The family travelled within their means, including a camping trip which ‘wasn’t the least bit safe’. With maturity, the author became increasingly aware of the legacy of poverty.
Dayney writes objectively. Matter-of-factly told, the writing sometimes leaves a sense of helplessness; the audience feels the writer’s tangible longing. Sporadic interactions with her biological father illustrate that even when blood relatives are not easily integrated into a person’s life, they nevertheless play an important role in establishing a sense of identity. As an adult, Dayney wonders, ‘Why didn’t he understand that after all those years, I still didn’t want his gifts? I wanted … his presence, not his presents.’
Five of the essays have been published previously. Each essay stands as an individual piece; as a collection, the transitions between them could be smoothed with additional orientation. This would minimise the often-abrupt endings which feel choppy and leave the reader wanting more resolution, while increasing the flow of the overall narrative.
Of particular note is Geauga Lake, describing a rare family holiday. The sensory descriptions are so vivid that the reader feels they are standing directly alongside the writer. Dayney describes how her ‘father’s Scottish skin instead of the Native American glow my [relatives] were blessed with … burned to a crisp without protection’. Terrified of the enormous water slide, she imagines it as her ‘coffin’ and worries about falling at the end, to be found ‘face-down with a wedgie’. It’s no spoiler to reveal that she did in fact survive this ordeal, and no wonder that she chose to write about this impactful event.
The last essays focus on Dayney’s relationship with her mother. These are particularly poignant as she reconciles past experiences, and audience empathy is inevitably extended. As she examines the role of her step-father she concludes with new-found insight that ‘in the chaos of my life turning upside down, it comforted me to know at least some things never change. I was grateful he’d stuck around.’
The appealing cover with its bright colours of peeling paint perhaps symbolises the broad brush of life exposed within its covers. When Love Sticks Around will appeal to a wide audience as everyone is affected by love, belonging and family, regardless of appearance.
Find out more about Danielle Dayney, and follow her blog, on her website.
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