Book Review: Steve Yarbrough’s Stay Gone Days

Stay Gone Days by Steve Yarbrough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yarbrough’s novel Stay Gone Days tells us a story that spans four decades in the lives of two sisters from the fictional Delta town of Loring, Mississippi. Their stories begin with their adventures in the town’s private high school in the 1970s. Though they go their separate ways, both characters’ lives take numerous twists and turns, often arriving where they might think is the end of the road but becomes a new jumping-off place. Yarbrough is an exquisite observer of character and place. His vivid portrayal of the social strata Loring and of iconic Mississippi locales like the Sun-n-Sand in Jackson transport the reader back to that era, though not exactly with nostalgia. There are traumatic events, crimes, betrayals, narrow escapes, triumphs, and attempts at reconciliation that drive his characters along their own winding paths, leading them to landscapes of Central California, Boston, and Poland, familiar to readers of Yarbrough’s fiction.

The novel is, as the reviewer for Rain Taxi called it, “Wise, tender, and honest,” as it “forces readers to confront the inevitability of aging and the choices we make to maintain or sever family ties.” Along the way, Yarbrough, through his characters, provides sage advice on writing, relationships, and life, along with the occasional cultural reference that grounds us in a common time and place, and even a few cameos by writers and musicians. Though both sisters experience their traumas and triumphs, it is in the masterful telling of their stories that they become unforgettable.

View all my reviews

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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