Stray
From the bestselling author of Sweetbitter, a memoir of growing up in a family shattered by lies and addiction, and of one woman's attempts to find a life beyond the limits of her past. Stray is a moving, sometimes devastating, brilliantly written and ultimately inspiring exploration of the landscapes of damage and survival.After selling her first novel--a dream she'd worked long and hard for--Stephanie Danler knew she should be happy. Instead, she found herself driven to face the difficult past she'd left behind a decade ago: a mother disabled by years of alcoholism, further handicapped by a tragic brain aneurysm; a father who abandoned the family when she was three, now a meth addict in and out of recovery. After years in New York City she's pulled home to Southern California by forces she doesn't totally understand, haunted by questions of legacy and trauma. Here, she works toward answers, uncovering hard truths about her parents and herself as she explores whether it's possible to change the course of her history. Lucid and honest, heart-breaking and full of hope, Stray, is an examination of what we inherit and what we don't have to, of what we have to face in ourselves to move forward, and what it's like to let go of one's parents in order to find a peace--and family--of one's own.

Stray Details

TitleStray
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 19th, 2020
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139781101875964
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Adult

Stray Review

  • Kim
    January 1, 1970
    I can’t wait for everyone to read this book. Sweetbitter was a wonderful read, if a little too MFA graduate for me, but Stray is a feat. The writing is clear and beautiful and never condescends. She is careful with her subjects and careless with herself, which is to say she’s incredibly honest with us. Definitely recommend!!
    more
  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    I'm still musing on this, mulling it over and trying to wrap my head around it. Stephanie Danler is not nice to herself in this book. She's harsh on everyone - herself, her parents, the people around her. I spent a lot of this book with my heart in my throat, sad for her past and her seeming inability to realize that she isn't actually living in the present while she tries to move on from her horrible childhood. The things she does feel so reactionary and yet believable. This book is the story o I'm still musing on this, mulling it over and trying to wrap my head around it. Stephanie Danler is not nice to herself in this book. She's harsh on everyone - herself, her parents, the people around her. I spent a lot of this book with my heart in my throat, sad for her past and her seeming inability to realize that she isn't actually living in the present while she tries to move on from her horrible childhood. The things she does feel so reactionary and yet believable. This book is the story of a woman viscerally stripping herself bare for the reader, but then at the end something incredible happened to me: Danler doesn't tie everything up in a bow, but she leaves the reader with so much hope. And in the end, that's all we can ask for: not that everything be perfect, but that we know that everything will be okay.
    more
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    How many bestselling novelists follow up their debut success with a memoir? I was deeply curious why Stephanie Danler chose to steer away from fiction, but reading Stray, I could see how there would be no detour for her but to write this book. From start to finish, Stephanie Danler’s memoir maintains a firm grip on the reader through her clear eyed narration from the perspective of a child of California, drawn back to the landscape and the people she loves—despite every challenge. She’s an uproo How many bestselling novelists follow up their debut success with a memoir? I was deeply curious why Stephanie Danler chose to steer away from fiction, but reading Stray, I could see how there would be no detour for her but to write this book. From start to finish, Stephanie Danler’s memoir maintains a firm grip on the reader through her clear eyed narration from the perspective of a child of California, drawn back to the landscape and the people she loves—despite every challenge. She’s an uprooted soul, wrestling with two parents caught in the grip of addictions. This is not a nostalgic or sentimental book. I am drawn to unflinching authors whose flinty stories reveal a bedrock of enormous love and a yearning for connection. Throughout the book, I felt the muscle memory of compulsive reading. Danler plays with archetypes and mythologies surrounding family, class, geography, and American mobility. It’s about the continued need for reconciliation that doesn’t find satisfaction in success. This book is a reckoning with unstable homes. I couldn’t put it down which seems to be a real theme of late. If you’re a parent with limited time, you’re only going to finish the books that won’t let you go. This was one of them.
    more
  • Hill
    January 1, 1970
    How did she manage to hit my mommy issues, daddy issues, and commitment issues all in 233 pages? Beautiful.
  • Chelsea
    January 1, 1970
    This book was incredibly well written and kept my interest from beginning to end. I expect this will be a huge bestseller when it pubs, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it as a celebrity book club selection. Stephanie Danler has cemented herself as a literary superstar and will have a successful writing career with many books in her future.THAT SAID.... I just couldn't stand Danler. I've never met her and am willing to believe she might actually be a very nice person, but I can only form an op This book was incredibly well written and kept my interest from beginning to end. I expect this will be a huge bestseller when it pubs, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it as a celebrity book club selection. Stephanie Danler has cemented herself as a literary superstar and will have a successful writing career with many books in her future.THAT SAID.... I just couldn't stand Danler. I've never met her and am willing to believe she might actually be a very nice person, but I can only form an opinion based on who she presents herself as in her memoir - a privileged, braggadocios narcissist who I truly struggled to empathize with. Addiction and broken family dynamics touch so many lives that I just couldn't see the point in feeling sorry for Danler in particular - a rich, gorgeous skinny white woman living out her (sad?) days in a posh Laurel Canyon cottage that once belonged to LITERALLY FLEETWOOD MAC. I could not relate to her jet-setting lifestyle, her piles of cash, her rich friends and their numerous vacation homes in exotic locations. This woman basically failed out of high school - had atrocious grades and test scores - yet still landed a spot at a prestigious university writing program because she was connected to an alumni who lobbied on her behalf. The pages where she'd write about the environmental destruction of certain sites in California were especially puzzling/infuriating. She talks about the fires, the mudslides, the destruction of indigenous lands and water sources, and then...? Nothing? She just goes right back to living in Laurel Canyon and that stuff doesn't really effect her...?I did not care for her descriptions of her relationship with "The Monster" and never really figured out why he earned that name. Splitting the book up into three sections - "Mother", "Father", and finally "Monster" was odd because I felt that the stuff about her parents was at times gut wrenching and raw, but the final third hardly mentioned this monster man at all. I think maybe she was talking about herself in the end? I guess the whole time I was reading the first two portions I kept thinking "man, this person she's in a relationship must be a REAL piece of work if she's named a full third of the book after him" but then it just fizzled out and ended. The entire book was just descriptions of times when she has felt let down by loved ones, and then in the end "welp, guess I'm pregnant now."I have gone back and forth with rating this 2 or 3 stars but have settled on 3 because I really do believe the writing is gorgeous. It's the only reason I stuck with it. Danler excels at storytelling, even when the subject matter is frustrating. Some readers are going to absolutely ADORE this book, and that's great. It just wasn't for me.
    more
  • Wynne Kontos
    January 1, 1970
    I met Stephanie Danler a few years ago at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where she sat on a panel with Teddy Wayne (and others) discussing "youth in revolt" or "unlikeable youth" etc. I knew she was speaking and knew I would be there volunteering with Lost Lit/Grumpy Bert and meant to bring my copy of "Sweetbitter," but of course I forgot. I introduced myself and told her I was attending the New School's writing program, herself a graduate from a few years prior. She was gracious and kind, wished m I met Stephanie Danler a few years ago at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where she sat on a panel with Teddy Wayne (and others) discussing "youth in revolt" or "unlikeable youth" etc. I knew she was speaking and knew I would be there volunteering with Lost Lit/Grumpy Bert and meant to bring my copy of "Sweetbitter," but of course I forgot. I introduced myself and told her I was attending the New School's writing program, herself a graduate from a few years prior. She was gracious and kind, wished me luck and is as startlingly pretty in real life as she is in her author photos.I bought "Sweetbitter" from the Barnes and Noble at Union Square in the summer of 2016, not realizing that she was a recent graduate of the writing program I was scheduled to attend that fall. It's amazing to think of a time when I didn't know who Stephanie Danler was, since as soon as I arrived at the New School she was an instant celebrity in that community. Not only a best-selling author who had won the incredible lottery of said title, but a graduate from just a couple years ago. We were taking classes from the same teachers, probably sitting in the same classrooms. She wasn't some famous writer from thirty years ago that had struck it big or had taken classes from legendary professors long dead. She was the person we all imagined ourselves to be, who many of us I'm sure, still want to be. Young, beautiful, successful, a regular person who became a big hit, who wrote a television show based on their best-selling novel.It's interesting then, to read "Stray," Danler's forthcoming memoir that I found on the galley shelf at the bookstore pre-pandemic. Reading about what Danler's life was like when "Sweetbitter" was coming out (that same summer I was reading it on my couch in my studio apartment in Harlem fighting crazy panic attacks and realizing if I could survive and just get to my MFA program I too could be just like her)...well it's a reminder of one of the big lessons my graduate school experience taught me: that success isn't a marker of your life or how your life feels. Danler's memoir is broken up into three parts, Mother, Father and Monster, and details her life shortly after and during the release of her novel as she struggles with a toxic affair with a man she calls "The Monster," a side-piece relationship with another man, "The Love Interest," all while reckoning with a difficult childhood as the daughter of two substance users. Her mother suffers from a brain aneurysm and survives, so Danler returns to Los Angeles from NYC to care for her. Danler is an exceptional writer. Her descriptions of California and her observations of herself and others are so keen. She can make the uninteresting seem interesting, invoking the five senses in such a way that made the culinary aspects of "Sweetbitter" soar off the page. I felt propelled through this memoir, despite there being very little movement or action. Danler's wise accolades (that pepper the pages of most memoirs) aren't cliched, for the most part they're touching and relevant, without ego or expectation.However, the memoir never felt fully formed. Since both her mother and father's substance abuse created so much distance between them and her, there are only a few years that Danler writes about with any clarity and they felt honest but not particularly dynamic. Almost as if we're seeing the events through a screen. My own memories of trauma feel this way sometimes, as if I'm viewing them through a fog. Danler acknowledges that her experiences can't be validated by her parents due to their cognitive issues and her other family member's differing perceptions, in a portion of the book I found extremely moving, despite the fact that it doesn't change the monotony of later chapters that feel the same. As I read I also felt assured that this will be criticized for being "navel-gazing." I remember being shocked at the same criticism leveled at Cheryl Strayed's memoir in which she details living at home without water or electricity after surviving domestic abuse and losing her mother. So one can assume Danler's memoir of a crappy relationship while living in a cottage in Laurel Canyon after publishing an incredibly successful novel will likely strike some as privileged or whiny. I'm not sure she deserves that criticism, but I did notice the lack of awareness of this potential criticism. Not that a writer should feel forced to personally address criticisms that have yet to be leveled. But it did feel absent of reflection on where she fit in the greater scheme of the World of Pain. Take that for what you will, since the race to determine Whose Pain Is Worse has yet to have any winners.While the memoir is divided into sections, the interconnectedness of all the players made it so that they bled into every section, making some of the section separation seem unnecessary. I felt the division of chapters by locations served the book more. And the reveal of who the true "monster" was towards the end was interesting and well done, but the endless focus on the man called The Monster was much less compelling. There seemed to be more focus on him than her family, which might be because he was actually in her life for years that neither of her parents were. But reading about a shitty partner and a shitty relationship isn't new to anyone whose ever lived and Danler didn't have anything to say about it that was new. His portions were the weakest of the memoir. Even when she writes about her best friends intolerance of him I still felt bored, since again, every human alive has dealt with a beloved who gives themselves to someone who can't hope to deserve them in this life or the next.In fact, my favorite person on the page wasn't Danler's parents or her boyfriends, it was her aunt, a former LA prosecutor whose biting wit and incredible presence shown through in Danler's writing. Their dynamic felt the most fraught, the most energectic, as they interacted. Here is a woman with a vivacious personality that hasn't been dumbed down by substance abuse, but who's reckoning with much of the same trauma that Danler is. She was very present at the beginning of the memoir, but soon she's replaced almost entirely by The Monster and this was such a shame.All of this can not erase the fact that Danler is an exceptional writer. She's proven capable of taking her talents to television, with similar stellar results. She's a strong observer, like I said, and her ability to pull me through this memoir interested in the outcome and emotionally affected even when it didn't always work, is proof of her talents. It's clear she doesn't see herself as "exceptional," and is comfortable confronting all parts of herself, especially as she moves forward into motherhood. There's much a young writer like me can learn from her work, and I look forward to learning more from her in the future.
    more
  • Megan Mills
    January 1, 1970
    This book is written unlike anything I've read before, yet it's clear to see the strong tradition to which it belongs.
  • Brynn
    January 1, 1970
    "When I watched her sleep, I understood that to love is neither exhilaration nor safety, but instead this: painful, too tender, forcing a forgetting that's close to forgiveness." (70)"I don't like it. That's all. I think in order for things to have a shot, you have to take risks. Monogamy is a great big risk." (84)"Like most people alive, I'm interested in presence. In escaping the feeling of time, an infinite substance loaded to us in shockingly finite amounts. Time, to me, is synonymous with d "When I watched her sleep, I understood that to love is neither exhilaration nor safety, but instead this: painful, too tender, forcing a forgetting that's close to forgiveness." (70)"I don't like it. That's all. I think in order for things to have a shot, you have to take risks. Monogamy is a great big risk." (84)"Like most people alive, I'm interested in presence. In escaping the feeling of time, an infinite substance loaded to us in shockingly finite amounts. Time, to me, is synonymous with death. Presence cures time." (122)"But here in Laurel Canyon, I feel that these broken bits of pills are buffering me from some more serious crisis, like it's one of the last stakes keeping me in place. For so long I've been fighting my way toward what I imagine is light, but I'm beginning to wonder what's on the other side of this." (124)"Epiphanies aren't lightning bolts. They are a hummed note, a prayer mumbled constantly, brought to the surface given the right conditions. It's as if I am always hearing three ways, first shallowly, collecting, then one level deeper as I'm processing, and finally, I am hearing with my body, which is when I'm hearing myself. That's one way, for me, information combines with experience and becomes knowledge. I wish there were a shortcut." (178)"I did do it, didn't I? It's not just a loop of my failures, there is something else too, some remote euphoria that I am a writer. I've forgotten I can choose something else. Forgotten that choice has always been the antidote to fate." (179)"We must believe deep down that we're exempt from consequences. Yet from my limited life experience, I know that we aren't." (192)"One time after sex, the Love Interest asked me if I was happy. I was so surprised by that question, its baldness, I said, I don't know how to answer that. I still don't. Happiness is a filter I apply in hindsight. A wash of color over a span of recollected time. But he is teaching me to name things that move me. Coastal live oaks. Poppies and lupin. Arroyos. When I get in the car with the Love Interest to explore some fabled part of this state, I feel alert, aroused, and at peace. I think this feeling must be very, very close to happiness." (194)"This landscape does not possess the architectural uniformity that we commonly call beauty. But when I trace the images Ruscha captured, I'm reminded that it's the way we look, how we organize the world and name it, that creates beauty." (211)"Boundaries help. It's through boundaries that we construct ourselves, say, Here is where you end and I begin. However, while boundaries are powerful, they're unfortunately not solid. They are made in the imagination, and there are inherent flaws in arming oneself for battle in our fantasies. What's shocking isn't that we have lived through the traumas of our lives. The miracle is that we are still remotely permeable." (214)"Why do we continue to love this fading world? It looks—for one moment before I dissuade myself—like a real river. An entire river changed course. I'm myopic sometimes." (227)"We don't receive the things we want because we deserve them. Most of the time we get them because we are blind and lucky. It's in the act of having, the daily tending, that we have an opportunity to become deserving. It's not a place to be reached. It is a constant betwixt and between. It's in that hollow, liminal space that I think—hope?—humility can be achieved." (231)"I think I'm learning how to be careful with things. By careful I don't mean caution. I mean it literally, taken as its suffix and root. I am learning how to be full of care." (234)
    more
  • K Marie
    January 1, 1970
    I've loved Stephanie Danler since I read Sweetbitter three years ago, and I've avidly followed her Instagram account and book recommendations since then. It always seemed like Danler had such a perfect life from her photos -- reading alllll the time, traveling the world, being a best-selling author. Obviously, I should know by now that that is almost never the cases -- however, it is very, very hard for me to reconcile the fashionable and savvy woman I follow on Instagram with the woman who wrot I've loved Stephanie Danler since I read Sweetbitter three years ago, and I've avidly followed her Instagram account and book recommendations since then. It always seemed like Danler had such a perfect life from her photos -- reading alllll the time, traveling the world, being a best-selling author. Obviously, I should know by now that that is almost never the cases -- however, it is very, very hard for me to reconcile the fashionable and savvy woman I follow on Instagram with the woman who wrote this book and experienced these things. I really feel for the horrible shit that Danler has been through in her life, and the cycles of abuse and addiction that run straight through her family. So many of the things that Danler said about healing and "being a victim but not living like you're victimized" are so important, and some of her own conclusions may even help me with dealing with my own family problems. However, I don't know if this memoir was necessary for her to write in her early thirties. Some of the memories she writes about happened less than a year before she wrote about them; no way is she able to write totally objectively about things that she is still living in, or to fit them into a larger pattern, because she still has so much life and so many lessons still ahead of her! She doesn't purport to have all of the answers at the end of the book, which is important, but it makes me wonder what the point of all of this even was. Maybe it was personally important for her write through her problems and trauma, but did it deserve, or even need, to be a published memoir in bookstores across the world, or should it have stayed in her journal, or a therapist's office, or maybe even an essay in a literary magazine? I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. As terrible as it sounds, I kept thinking that the shit Danler has been through, horrible as it is, is not unique to her. Unfortunately, so, so many other people have had addict or alcoholic or absentee parents, and her story in and of itself isn't as special as she seems to think it is. I feel cruel saying that, but I think it's true. To her credit, though, Danler almost always attempts to look at her past with clear eyes and the possibility of objectivity, even if most of the time she /has/ to be subjective with her own past. The back-and-forth narrative timeline was confusing sometimes but worked for the most part -- it was amazing how everything converged together as the book continued and built up steam, which is a real credit to the way Danler structured the book. The level of vulnerability she displays in this story was admirable, but also, if I had put what is basically a polished diary into the world I would never be able to look anyone in the face again. She's brave to have written this, but I'm not sure if she /had to/ as she says in interviews repeatedly. The stories she tells may help other people in similar dysfunctional family situations, and I'm happy that she found a supportive longterm partner and now has her own baby boy who she is determined to raise better than her parents did her. More so, though, I'm excited to see where her story goes from here, and excited to read whatever fiction she writes next most. (4.5 stars)
    more
  • Lindsay Pugh
    January 1, 1970
    This is probably a true 3.5 for me, as I enjoyed it a slightly more than "Sweetbitter." Despite my middling reviews of Danler's work, I find her interesting and will probably continue to read whatever she writes. There's something about her writing that I enjoy, although I can't quite put my finger on it ... perhaps it's her ability to keenly analyze her own actions without going on the immediate defensive or incorporating an outsized amount of ego. She doesn't put on airs, which is refreshing c This is probably a true 3.5 for me, as I enjoyed it a slightly more than "Sweetbitter." Despite my middling reviews of Danler's work, I find her interesting and will probably continue to read whatever she writes. There's something about her writing that I enjoy, although I can't quite put my finger on it ... perhaps it's her ability to keenly analyze her own actions without going on the immediate defensive or incorporating an outsized amount of ego. She doesn't put on airs, which is refreshing considering her success. This memoir was probably not easy to write considering the sheer volume of fucked up shit that it contains, and I applaud her vulnerability.Unfortunately, a bunch of things did not work for me. I didn't like the structure: mother, father, and monster. I understand that she's trying to show how her formative years led to this messy and destructive relationship, but it felt forced. There weren't enough stories about either of her parents to warrant an individual section for each of them. I think the overall sentiments would have been stronger with those distinctions eliminated. They did nothing but set me up for a framework that wasn't entirely right. I also found the monster section boring. He's already woven in through most of the story. We don't need additional isolated moments that focus solely on him and his bullshit. Some of the writing was just straight-up difficult for me to read and badly needed an edit. Here's an example: "The coyote is so close to me while he eats that he sometimes bumps his nose into the glass not five inches from my face. I watch him, not blinking, not knowing that the stray is another thing that by feeding I am close to killing."I had to reread that last sentence a few times before I understood what she was saying. This book contains far too many of those moments. Shouldn't a good editor help fix those problems?Overall, I'm happy that I read this but probably won't ever think about it again.
    more
  • Ariana
    January 1, 1970
    I sat down to read this book and I couldn’t put it down before finishing it. In “Stray: a memoir”, Stephanie Danler takes us back to her childhood in California and her teenage years in Colorado, alternating with memories of her present adult-self right after we got to know her as the author of Sweetbitter. She does this brilliantly, almost in a cinematic fashion with California as a background. Danler writes California so vividly it keeps the story alive, a place that feeds from the tragedy and I sat down to read this book and I couldn’t put it down before finishing it. In “Stray: a memoir”, Stephanie Danler takes us back to her childhood in California and her teenage years in Colorado, alternating with memories of her present adult-self right after we got to know her as the author of Sweetbitter. She does this brilliantly, almost in a cinematic fashion with California as a background. Danler writes California so vividly it keeps the story alive, a place that feeds from the tragedy and ugliness surrounding Danler’s relationships. We’re immediately invited in, jumping from character to character, witnessing the most intimate and raw aspects of a life marked by abandonment, addiction, and infidelity. I was so absorbed into the story I sometimes forgot where I was, and who I was. While reading Danler’s recollections, I began revisiting old memories about the relationship with my parents and The Monsters in my life.Many things we can take from reading this book, but for me, the most important one is that addiction can manifest itself in different ways and shapes. That neighbor, colleague, or friend, who seems to have it all figured out is also an addict. In Danler’s words “Happiness is a filter I apply in hindsight. A wash of color over a span of recollected time.” Aren’t we all recovered or recovering addicts somehow? Always seeking more, choosing the path of self-destruction, but filtering our lives so others can’t see us hurting? Despite all these hardships, Danler ends her story leaving us hopeful, “I have to believe it’s possible to be a victim and not live a victimized life.” It gave me chills. That’s how good this book is.Follow me on instagram @mellow.books for all things books ♡
    more
  • Celine
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing is ever simply black and white but people will still refuse to see the gray until you show them. Stray discusses three things in earnest-Stephanie Danler's mother, her father and her affair with a married man. I could write about how carefully she explores her childhood, as now seen through the eyes of an adult. How addiction affected every aspect of her life and yet she didn't succumb to it, herself. Instead I want to share how much I appreciated her honesty about having an affair.Affai Nothing is ever simply black and white but people will still refuse to see the gray until you show them. Stray discusses three things in earnest-Stephanie Danler's mother, her father and her affair with a married man. I could write about how carefully she explores her childhood, as now seen through the eyes of an adult. How addiction affected every aspect of her life and yet she didn't succumb to it, herself. Instead I want to share how much I appreciated her honesty about having an affair.Affairs are touchy subjects, especially when the people involved don't appear to be begging for forgiveness. Nobody wants to think that the person they're with would be capable of connecting with someone else, of committing the ultimate betrayal. To read about such a case is difficult, yes, but more than that, it's...humanizing. Admitting something that most would keep private cracks herself wide open for all of us. Allows us to inspect her closely to find the parts of us that match. It's no easy feat and she does it near flawlessly. Nothing in this memoir felt trite, though it had every opportunity to be so. A child forgives their parents? Chooses love after a lifetime of hiding from it? It sounds indulgent but translates as nothing short of remarkable.
    more
  • Caseysita
    January 1, 1970
    This was a raw, beautifully written memoir about a young woman's relationship with her parents, and with herself. Stephanie Danler, who published her debut novel "Sweetbitter" in 2016, writes about her upbringing in California with two difficult parents, who separated when she and her sister were young. Each is unreliable in different ways and both struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. As an adult, Stephanie encounters challenges in her own life, particularly in her romantic relationships. T This was a raw, beautifully written memoir about a young woman's relationship with her parents, and with herself. Stephanie Danler, who published her debut novel "Sweetbitter" in 2016, writes about her upbringing in California with two difficult parents, who separated when she and her sister were young. Each is unreliable in different ways and both struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. As an adult, Stephanie encounters challenges in her own life, particularly in her romantic relationships. The book is loosely organized around her mother, father, and two men she is seeing, but "Stray" also moves around a lot in time to tell her story. The writing is clear, poetic, and sometimes tough to read. Danler is honest about her parents' flaws, but she is just as honest about her own issues and the mistakes she has made. I felt anger and sadness on her behalf when reading about traumatic events involving her parents, but there are also kind and empathetic figures in her life, such as her aunt, parents of friends, and her boyfriend. Whereas "Sweetbitter" was all about the pace of living in New York, "Stray" offers vivid descriptions of California. For those who enjoy memoirs with strong writing and family dysfunction, "Stray" is an engrossing read. Thanks to NetGalley.
    more
  • S C
    January 1, 1970
    It is easy to see how much of Sweetbitter was loosely modeled after Danler’s own life, but Stray focuses little on Danler’s time in New York City and instead on the formative events that occurred before and after. Stray is organized into three sections, supposedly devoted to three different relationships, but the timelines bleed into each other as these toxic relationships reinforce similar cycles of disappointment and abandonment. The skipping between timelines can cause Stray to feel jarring a It is easy to see how much of Sweetbitter was loosely modeled after Danler’s own life, but Stray focuses little on Danler’s time in New York City and instead on the formative events that occurred before and after. Stray is organized into three sections, supposedly devoted to three different relationships, but the timelines bleed into each other as these toxic relationships reinforce similar cycles of disappointment and abandonment. The skipping between timelines can cause Stray to feel jarring at times. As soon as you're drawn into one story, Danler quickly drops it and plunges you ten years into the future, which is frustrating if only because you were so engaged with the previous chapter.Ultimately, Stray is a dark and heartbreaking memoir and Danler comes out of it looking more like a hardened anti-hero than a likable protagonist. She admits to cheating in all of her relationships, running away from people who needed her, and turning to tough love rather than compassion. But in an era that has started to embrace unlikable women, this shouldn’t be counted against her. Whether you end up liking Danler or hate her, you won’t be able to put Stray down until you’re finished. 
    more
  • Ava Huang
    January 1, 1970
    Read this the day it came out and I don't know if I'd say I like it more than Sweetbitter but I find myself thinking about it much more. It's weightier. All memoirs are about witnessing but I was particularly impressed by the way Stephanie Danler witnesses: her ability to unflinchingly (yes I hate that word too) recount the ugliness and beauty of her relationships with her mom, her dad and The Monster. In relationships with people who hurt themselves and hurt everyone else around them there is s Read this the day it came out and I don't know if I'd say I like it more than Sweetbitter but I find myself thinking about it much more. It's weightier. All memoirs are about witnessing but I was particularly impressed by the way Stephanie Danler witnesses: her ability to unflinchingly (yes I hate that word too) recount the ugliness and beauty of her relationships with her mom, her dad and The Monster. In relationships with people who hurt themselves and hurt everyone else around them there is so much that is overwhelmingly ugly but there is also beauty and love and I think to pretend there was never any beauty after you've lived through the awful and survived is a terrible type of erasure. What I like about this book is that she doesn't erase.Lines I highlighted:"I have never wanted to die more consistently than when I sat through evenings like this, loving him down to his eyelashes and teeth, bludgeoned by that love, while knowing we were rotten.""We don't receive the thins we want because we deserve them. Most of the time we get them because we are blind and lucky. It's in the act of having, the daily tending, that we have an opportunity to become deserving."
    more
  • Katie McCluskey
    January 1, 1970
    After the author’s success with her first novel, she takes us on a personal journey to expose the ugliness in her life. And how the chance to write about them may give her the ability to see life a little differently now.She forces the questions of, is self delusion of choice? Do we believe certain things to justify our actions?(I’m going to preface my review by saying that I am slightly obsessed with Stephanie Danler, and her writing, and her bookshelves, and her poetry posts).This memoir, arti After the author’s success with her first novel, she takes us on a personal journey to expose the ugliness in her life. And how the chance to write about them may give her the ability to see life a little differently now.She forces the questions of, is self delusion of choice? Do we believe certain things to justify our actions?(I’m going to preface my review by saying that I am slightly obsessed with Stephanie Danler, and her writing, and her bookshelves, and her poetry posts).This memoir, artistically speaking, is so unique. It’s not linear, like most memoirs. It’s divided chapters titled by places, not time. My mind is still in awe over that.Her truth is so raw, her vulnerability so evident. She exposes the worst parts of her family, and a bit of herself as well. Life experiences don’t have to be dramatic to be a shared truth.I think anyone who has unresolved issues with their parents (hi, that’s me 🤚🏻) can relate to the events and behaviors she shares with us. The title, Stray, fits perfectly.If you are a fan of memoir, or need a chance of reading pace, or buy books with stunning covers, Stray is SO for you.
    more
  • Rebecca Padgett
    January 1, 1970
    I have admired Danler's writing since I first read an essay by her titled "The Unravelers."Sweetbitter was a wonderful novel. I was delighted to find out she was writing a memoir as her nonfiction was what first attracted me to her writing. Many of the same themes arise; having the ability to choose to change your life regardless of your circumstance, overcoming hardships, managing each day at a time, a craving for darkness that is seemingly incurable and learning to be kind to oneself. I read t I have admired Danler's writing since I first read an essay by her titled "The Unravelers."Sweetbitter was a wonderful novel. I was delighted to find out she was writing a memoir as her nonfiction was what first attracted me to her writing. Many of the same themes arise; having the ability to choose to change your life regardless of your circumstance, overcoming hardships, managing each day at a time, a craving for darkness that is seemingly incurable and learning to be kind to oneself. I read this book hungrily like a child given candy and then missing it once finish. I will revisit this book again and again as I highlighted many passages that resonated with me. Brilliantly, beautifully and poetically done. Danler is joining amongst the ranks of masterful female writers that will be remembered for decades to come for her pursuit of honesty and dedication to writing as a craft and art form.
    more
  • Megan Mann
    January 1, 1970
    Just absolutely, stunningly heartbreaking and incredible. An astonishing ride that I could not stop reading. Danler tells the story in three parts: Mother, Father, Monster. It details her life and how her parents and their lack of parenting ability lead her down a destructive path that included, but was not limited to, drinking, drugs, affairs, divorce, a wildly toxic relationship, disassociation and more. She shielded herself in ways most people should never have to, but with a drug addicted fa Just absolutely, stunningly heartbreaking and incredible. An astonishing ride that I could not stop reading. Danler tells the story in three parts: Mother, Father, Monster. It details her life and how her parents and their lack of parenting ability lead her down a destructive path that included, but was not limited to, drinking, drugs, affairs, divorce, a wildly toxic relationship, disassociation and more. She shielded herself in ways most people should never have to, but with a drug addicted father and an alcoholic mother, what else can you do?This was truly a breathtaking memoir. Sometimes, you wanted to shake the book and scream, STOP DOING THAT! But as she says towards the end, without all of that, she wouldn’t be where she is now and now is where she’s supposed to be.Could not recommend this more.
    more
  • Caroline Tory
    January 1, 1970
    “It’s in the act of having, the daily tending, that we have the opportunity to become deserving. It’s not a place to be reached. It is a constant betwixt and between.”This memoir is full of so many treasures like this one. As a child of privilege and a generally easy, loving family, I thought I might not be able to relate to this book - which reveals Stephanie's traumatic childhood dealing with an alcoholic mother and drug-addicted father. And yet, there were so many pages that I dog-eared and l “It’s in the act of having, the daily tending, that we have the opportunity to become deserving. It’s not a place to be reached. It is a constant betwixt and between.”This memoir is full of so many treasures like this one. As a child of privilege and a generally easy, loving family, I thought I might not be able to relate to this book - which reveals Stephanie's traumatic childhood dealing with an alcoholic mother and drug-addicted father. And yet, there were so many pages that I dog-eared and lines that I re-read because she puts words to feelings that so many people have experienced (perhaps just with less trauma). With the same poetic sensibility displayed in her novel and breakout debut "Sweetbitter," Danler has gifted us with a courageous and vital memoir.
    more
  • Ann Marie
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent book overall, though I could have done without so many atmospheric environmental descriptions of LA. The book seemed to alternate between California love poems followed by heart-wrenching family vignettes. Nothing ties up neatly or feels totally resolved either, but such is life.The author’s parents are shattered by seemingly hopeless addiction and other tragedies - some of which resonate with my experience on a personal level.. there were many times I wanted to shake her parents and y Excellent book overall, though I could have done without so many atmospheric environmental descriptions of LA. The book seemed to alternate between California love poems followed by heart-wrenching family vignettes. Nothing ties up neatly or feels totally resolved either, but such is life.The author’s parents are shattered by seemingly hopeless addiction and other tragedies - some of which resonate with my experience on a personal level.. there were many times I wanted to shake her parents and yell in their faces. I also wanted to give the author a big hug. She had to soldier through so much and develop that certain tough veneer that surviving these things brings. It’s her awareness of this outer protective shell that I found so compelling.
    more
  • Renee (some kind of a library)
    January 1, 1970
    "Epiphanies aren't lightning bolts. They are a hummed note, a prayer mumbled constantly, brought to the surface given the right conditions."So much of what I loved about Sweetbitter shined even more brightly in Stephanie Danler's memoir STRAY. The writing! The writing. Oh gosh, the writing. I feel inadequate to describe what exactly kept me turning these pages. When it comes to the way Danler is able to meander through her life, connecting feelings and emotions about everything from a neglected "Epiphanies aren't lightning bolts. They are a hummed note, a prayer mumbled constantly, brought to the surface given the right conditions."So much of what I loved about Sweetbitter shined even more brightly in Stephanie Danler's memoir STRAY. The writing! The writing. Oh gosh, the writing. I feel inadequate to describe what exactly kept me turning these pages. When it comes to the way Danler is able to meander through her life, connecting feelings and emotions about everything from a neglected childhood to a complicated adult relationship. Danler's descriptions of her childhood, adolescence and the lessons she still was learning through early adulthood were stark, harsh and yet still invoked hope and emotion with each line in a way that kept me hanging on her every word.
    more
  • Brianne Sperber
    January 1, 1970
    I didn’t read Sweetbitter and I’m okay to have missed it. Stray has all the necessary characteristics of a truly meaningful memoir. Danler’s unsentimental portrayal of her family is stark yet elegiac. I found myself wishing she could truly escape her patterns and was relieved when she had. Her story captures the family dynamic in place when siblings experience the same events yet remember them so differently. Her honesty and raw truth is fully on display here and it is stunning. This book deserv I didn’t read Sweetbitter and I’m okay to have missed it. Stray has all the necessary characteristics of a truly meaningful memoir. Danler’s unsentimental portrayal of her family is stark yet elegiac. I found myself wishing she could truly escape her patterns and was relieved when she had. Her story captures the family dynamic in place when siblings experience the same events yet remember them so differently. Her honesty and raw truth is fully on display here and it is stunning. This book deserves to be in the memoir cannon alongside books like The Glass Castle. We may have a new Jeannette Walls yet.
    more
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Sigh. I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile but ultimately found it forgettable. Danler is a beautiful writer and lays a lot of personal trauma out for this memoir. However, it seemed all she cared about was delivering tantalizing and ethereal writing and not much about the events or the reading experience. This was really poorly organized and she held back on everything aside from her parents. Which wouldn’t have been an issue if that was the focus, but a lot of the book was about he Sigh. I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile but ultimately found it forgettable. Danler is a beautiful writer and lays a lot of personal trauma out for this memoir. However, it seemed all she cared about was delivering tantalizing and ethereal writing and not much about the events or the reading experience. This was really poorly organized and she held back on everything aside from her parents. Which wouldn’t have been an issue if that was the focus, but a lot of the book was about her romantic relationships and career successes. It was supposed to be so raw and real, yet it didn’t feel like we ever met her.
    more
  • Paige
    January 1, 1970
    Stephanie Danler's writing is raw, candid, and feels like sharing a bottle of wine between a couple good friends. Her memoir delves into her past and her struggles with mother's alcoholism turned handicapped after a brain aneurism, her conveniently present father, and her inability to commit to life. This is a memoir about changing the course of your life set before you, and one of acceptance and hope. I found Danler's tale captivating and sped through it in a day. I loved her brutal honesty, wh Stephanie Danler's writing is raw, candid, and feels like sharing a bottle of wine between a couple good friends. Her memoir delves into her past and her struggles with mother's alcoholism turned handicapped after a brain aneurism, her conveniently present father, and her inability to commit to life. This is a memoir about changing the course of your life set before you, and one of acceptance and hope. I found Danler's tale captivating and sped through it in a day. I loved her brutal honesty, which evoked thought provoking questions within myself. I now feel a kinship to her after reading about her life, and I will definitely be picking up her first novel.
    more
  • Amber
    January 1, 1970
    Read this book in a day and it was heartbreaking and beautifully rendered. I didn’t love Sweetbitter but Danler’s nonfiction has meant so much to me for so long, and the essay that inspired this book (Engrams, California) is one I’ve read over 100 times. Interesting to see how she weaves in threads from her essays and how they expand and take on new form. Writing about trauma is a feat to begin with, but reading flows so easily and it feels like a incredible pleasure that this book is in the wor Read this book in a day and it was heartbreaking and beautifully rendered. I didn’t love Sweetbitter but Danler’s nonfiction has meant so much to me for so long, and the essay that inspired this book (Engrams, California) is one I’ve read over 100 times. Interesting to see how she weaves in threads from her essays and how they expand and take on new form. Writing about trauma is a feat to begin with, but reading flows so easily and it feels like a incredible pleasure that this book is in the world to read.
    more
  • Gretchen
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up an ARC of this book at PLA 2020. I don't typically read memoirs, especially memoirs of people that I have never heard of before. I remember seeing a copy of Stephanie Danler's first novel and thinking that I might try reading it. This memoir is very sad, but not uncommon. It tells of Danler's adolescence, her troubles with substance abuse, and her parents' struggles with substance abuse. It is a strange tale with a happy ending. Overall opinion: meh.
    more
  • Kitty
    January 1, 1970
    It’s difficult to articulate the kind of hardness that develops and takes over the agonisingly soft parts in you when you experience this level of trauma in your childhood. Stephanie Danler is relentless in her refusal to wallow or even offer much softness (to herself or anyone else) until towards the end of the memoir - I understand this. As someone who also has that hardness, I so understand. Absolutely beautiful, brutal writing.
    more
  • Riley Linden
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 stars -- most of this was great, but some parts felt not fully formed. i'm not sure why. maybe it's because 2/3 of the book focus on relationships that were distant, as both her parents were substance users, so it felt a bit like watching the story unfold on a screen, where you don't fully have all the information for it to really hit home. that said, danler's writing is beautiful as always, and her stories were definitely striking at times.
    more
  • Nursebookie
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to this memoir through an audiobook narrated by Alex McKenna and it was wonderful. I love memoirs and Stephanie Danler’s account of her past, living through parental failures, addressing issues of mental health, substance abuse, and trauma was truly heartbreaking and immersive. The fragility of our relationships and how it affects many years later, consuming you is a very important topic to address. Danler does it so brilliantly in this fearless memoir I highly recommend.
    more
  • Sophie Katzman
    January 1, 1970
    This book is an absolutely incredible memoir . It was a quick read, yet very thought provoking and filled with utmost emotion. It’s as if Danler has let us into her mind and her innermost thoughts. I truly felt these emotions and my own while reading this book. It takes courage to share your story and I as a reader am grateful she did
    more
Write a review