Samantha Rideout was born and raised in an outport community in Central Newfoundland. Her first novel, Pieces, was released in 2013. She currently lives in New York with her husband, Rob. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the primary female antagonist of The People Who Stay (2016, Flanker Press), Sylvia Pride, is also from an outport community and lives with her husband in Boston. She left Newfoundland to find something better, wanting to escape its close confines of friends and family and spread her wings. It is there that she meets that man who becomes her husband, Tyler.
Ten years after she left, she and Ty return for her cousin Mary’s wedding. She shares her thoughts with us as she takes in the familiar surroundings of the fictional community of Cuddlesville: “she inhaled the fresh sea air through her nostrils. Permeated by Newfoundland air, for a fleeting moment she felt a positive spin on her melancholy attitude toward the province. A little fluttering feeling in her heart made her remember that buried among the bad memories were a set of good memories just out of reach.”
To Sylvia, the town appears frozen in time as all the familiar landmarks are still there ten years later. Yet, while the community may have not changed outwardly, the people she grew up with are no longer children either, including her childhood friend Charlie, who is married with four children. Charlie has married Sylvia’s other childhood friend Drew for whom she once thought she had feelings for, but now knows otherwise. The book is divided into Parts I and II, and Part I takes up 3/4 of the book. About half of Part I is the lead-up to the wedding of Mary and Phonse, in which everything that can go wrong does. It also deals with Sylvia’s emotions about reconnecting with family and friends she has not kept in contact with while dealing with her and Ty’s domestic problems and he inability to carry a baby to term without miscarrying it. By the time the wedding is over, I was getting weary of reading this book; incorrectly labelling it as “ChickLit”. Then, Ms. Rideout surprisingly states at the end of Chapter 24:
…but the story doesn’t end here. The wedding is just the halftime show. The most important players are just beginning to come to life. After all, if the story ended at the wedding, there wouldn’t be a story.
Well played, Ms. Rideout! You made me want to keep reading, and I am happy I did so, for the rest of the book gets down to the real story: true friendship, marriage and family and what’s important and what’s not. Sylvia thinks to herself: “this little trip down memory lane has shown me some truths I needed to see. Getting away from home, getting home, however you want to look at it, it was good to take some time to rethink everything.”
Overall, The People Who Stay is a thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating and insightful read and will appeal to anybody who has left home to strike out on their own, and may have come to realize that something may be missing in an otherwise fulfilling life.