Book review: Ways of Staying (Kevin Bloom)

Available at Exclusive Books and all good bookstores.

Reviewers usually don’t buy books. Why would we? We’re lucky and suitably smug buggers who typically take delivery of a large box every month – free, gratis, for nothing – thanks to the many superb publishers out there (Penguin, chief among them).

And since the arrival of my Kindle, I buy new books even less. But that’s another self-satisfied rant for another day…

My point is that I bought Kevin Bloom’s Ways of Staying. I didn’t even have a book voucher. I took the money out of my purse and paid for it. (Which hurt. A lot.) It’s not my usual choice of reading material, in that I’m not a wild fan of local authors, much less local journos who are much, much smarter than me and whose regular columns I seldom, if ever, understand. But the blurb spoke to me.

Here’s why.

Like many, we’ve been thinking about emigration. In a vague, passive-aggressive, weak-willed sort of a way, but still. I’ve been moaning about how I didn’t work this hard to move to Boston and be ‘poor’. My husband’s been whining about how shitty the service is here and how, in the States, you get Amazon deliveries the next day. To the front door. (We don’t talk about crime. It’s too real an issue.)

And Bloom’s blurb ends thus:

Ways of Staying is in the final analysis a love letter to a country that will not be forsaken. This is not only the story of why we stay, and how; it’s the story of who we are.”

So I brought the book home, took it on holiday with me a week or two later, and didn’t put it down again til I was done. Oy vey. It’s a ride and a half, through truth and lies and human suffering and humour and the tragedies of communities including my own tiny Jewish one. On the surface pretty harrowing, its content is surprisingly palatable, thanks to Bloom’s interesting narrative style and on-the-ground insights.

Also, as he’s a journo by day, he writes clean. None of the droning waffle, effusive adjective use and academiish you’d expect from someone with a Writing Fellowship.

I never like to give too much away in my reviews, so I won’t here either. But my parting shot is this: if you’ve ever considered leaving the country because you feel like you can’t take the drama any more; if you’ve even dwelt on the idea briefly and then put it out of your mind; or if you’ve had it and you’re outta here, this brilliant book should be your next step. At the very least, you can read it on the plane.