HOLD STILL

Lynn Steger Strong

Heralding the arrival of a profoundly moving new voice, Hold Still is a “haunting … achingly detailed, and undeniably real” family portrait (San Francisco Chronicle).

When Maya Taylor, an English professor with a tendency to hide in her books, sends her daughter to Florida to look after a friend’s child, she does so with the best of intentions; it’s a chance for Ellie, twenty and spiraling, to rebuild her life. But in the sprawling hours of one humid afternoon, Ellie makes a mistake that she can’t take back. In two separate timelines—before and after the catastrophe—Maya and Ellie must try to repair their fractured relationship and find a way to transcend not only their differences but their more troubling similarities.

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Heralding the arrival of a profoundly moving new voice, Hold Still is a “haunting … achingly detailed, and undeniably real” family portrait (San Francisco Chronicle).

When Maya Taylor, an English professor with a tendency to hide in her books, sends her daughter to Florida to look after a friend’s child, she does so with the best of intentions; it’s a chance for Ellie, twenty and spiraling, to rebuild her life. But in the sprawling hours of one humid afternoon, Ellie makes a mistake that she can’t take back. In two separate timelines—before and after the catastrophe—Maya and Ellie must try to repair their fractured relationship and find a way to transcend not only their differences but their more troubling similarities. In tender, undulating prose, Hold Still explores the depths and limits of a mother’s love.

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  • Liveright
  • March 2016
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781631492655

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$15.95

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About Lynn Steger Strong

Lynn Steger Strong holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she teaches Freshman Writing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two young daughters.

Praise

“[Strong] has a highly sensitive awareness of the special kind of disappointment—and the painfully undying connection—that comes with family.” —The New York Times

“Wildly evocative.” —Elle

“ … melds psychological insight, precise plotting and limpid prose.” —Huffington Post

Discussion Questions

1. Although Maya has never had many friends, the few she does have are extremely important to her. Two of them are former students—one of them a nonconformist not unlike Ellie. Another is a free-spirited colleague. Given Maya’s personality, did this surprise you? How do these unusual dynamics play out? Did you find them relatable?

2. Why did Ellie become so rebellious? Why does she later often secretly wish she were different? Does she make an effort to change? Why or why not?

3. Maya is simultaneously consumed by love for her children and determined to retain a separate identity. In what ways does this tension reveal itself? Do you think she succeeds?

4. Hold Still straddles two parts of America, two distinct worlds. How does she contrast life in New York and Florida? If you’ve been to either or both of these places, do her observations ring true to you?

5. What role does communication (or lack thereof) play in the novel? What thoughts do the characters leave unspoken? How does this affect their interactions and the outcome of the story?

6. Maya has always escaped into books when the real world was too overwhelming. She is also an avid runner who enjoys pushing her body to its limits. Why does she run? How do these two sides of her fit together?

7. How does Strong portray the reality, the ideal, and the meaning of parenthood? Are they the same for all of the parents in the novel?

8. Benny often sees similarities between his mother and sister. Do you see them too? How do Ellie and Maya view one another, both before the accident and after?

9. Stephen and Maya’s fragile marriage begins to buckle under the weight of tragedy; Ellie uses sex as an escape; stolen glances and shared desires blur the lines of infidelity. Explore how women and men relate to one another in the novel.

10. Did you like the novel’s leaps back and forth in time? Why or why not? Why do you think the author chose this structure over a traditional linear narrative?

11. Annie tells Maya that they are ultimately more responsible for the accident than Ellie is. Who do you think is most culpable and why?