Away to Stay
by Mary Kuryla
Away to Stay begins with Olya, a teenage girl, perched on the doorstep of cousin Jack’s tumbledown ranch house in Southern California’s Inland Empire. Partially parentless, possibly fatherless, Olya carries the Good Book inside her head, and views her surroundings through the scrim of Biblical wisdom. She is baffled by the world of adults but also sees through so much of their deluded misbehavior. Olya is also open to revelation, as in the discovery beneath Jack’s house of a crack in the foundation that speaks as the mouth of God challenging her to stay.
Olya’s mother Irina is a Russian émigré and self-serving liar, obsessed with becoming a prima ballerina and stalking Mikhail Baryshnikov. Cousin Jack is haunted by demons from the Afghanistan war. And the so often absent Irina. Jack turns his obsession onto his untrainable dog named Bird that he kidnapped from the Riverside Police Department. Bird comes to embody all of this senselessness. To Olya, Bird is Job on four legs.
In prose that reflects the myopia that comes of coping with an itinerant life with her mother, Olya is not the most knowing narrator. As a result, areas of uncertainty quickly emerge for Olya, such as God and dog and sex, but what should be known—family—appears ever more uncertain. As tension builds to catastrophe through the constant ratcheting of the central triangle of Jack, Irina, Olya, the house is struck by an earthquake. The characters are coalesced as a family only as their house is torn asunder.
Away to Stay is sinuous and zizzy, cinematic and beguiling. Mary Kuryla brings us news of our shared precarity, our brutal and borrowed world.Noy Holland, author of Bird
“Away to Stay is a tense, propulsive, and thrillingly subjective coming-of-age story, with gorgeous prose and slippery characters that will stick with you.”J. Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota
“Kuryla has an unflinching eye for the dark strangeness of domestic life and her ravishing prose only deepens the provocation. Away to Stay is a powerful and stunningly original book.”Lexi Freiman, author of Inappropriation