STAY by ASH KNIGHT
A quiet coffee shop gives two men who have lost too much a chance at love.
Joe Calloway has been on the run since he was sixteen, homeless and alone. He never lets anyone close. Between his traumatic past and his autism, he isn’t used to people taking the time to understand him.
Even so, when a stranger offers him a way to build a better life for himself, Joe finds the strength to go for it.
Madden Fields is fully devoted to his older sister, her autistic son, and his job as a nurse, but when he meets Joe, his carefully ordered life begins to pick up speed.
As their connection deepens, Madden realizes he’s going to have to hold on tight if he wants to be an anchor strong enough for Joe to stay.
At it's core Stay was a love story. But it was so much more than that too. It was about accepting people as they are and learning to accept yourself—the good, the bad, the in-between and complicated parts that are apart of us all—too.
Joe was a well written, thought out character with a past. He was on the spectrum, homeless and running from people who should have been his support system. Things take a turn when good fortune smiles on him. When he meets Madden things don't just magically become easier. Joe isn't "fixed" or "cured" by love and I adored that. He saw the world differently and struggled with things a lot of people never do. Up until the end he had to work hard at understanding his own wants and desires, other people and relationships in general.
Madden for his part was kind and understanding. He took the time to get to know Joe. He didn't set out with plans to "save" or make Joe "normal." Instead he accepted him for all he was and loved him deeply. It probably helped that he had a nephew on the spectrum.
They had ups and downs while Joe struggled to come to grasps and accept that he was safe and loved. I laughed with Joe and Madden. I cried with them as well. Over all. Stay was an emotional rollercoaster that was not always easy to read.
The Happy Ever After was well deserved. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of these two in the future. Perhaps settled and Joe happily experiencing life because there wasn't a lot of that present in Stay. It focused mostly on Joe's struggle which makes since plot wise but was slightly unsatisfying.
I do just want to cliff note that I have a nephew on the spectrum and he struggles in many ways Joe does. But would I ever let him near this book? Probably not. Mostly because Joe's life did get better when he met Madden. No, Madden didn't try to "save" Joe but it can easily be interpreted that way. Up until Madden arrived Joe was alone and homeless and scared. He wasn't a productive member of society. He avoided people and hard situations. Some of that because of his past but also because of being on the spectrum. I don't ever want my nephew to think in order to be happy and accepted and reach his goals he needs someone to love him which is how Stay came off in some parts. I understand that was probably not the authors intentions but it is how it appears when you have a character on the spectrum only make friends, find happiness and reach their goals after someone falls in love. •