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Summary

When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over 10 years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief?

Both healthy and vital medical professionals in their early 50s, Kay and her husband, Cyril, have seen too many of their elderly NHS patients in similar states of decay. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal: they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned 80. When their deal is sealed in 1991, the spouses are blithely looking forward to another three decades together.

But then they turn 80.

By turns hilarious and touching, playful and grave, Should We Stay or Should We Go portrays 12 parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for Kay and Cyril, from a purgatorial Cuckoo’s-Nest-style retirement home to the discovery of a cure for ageing, from cryogenic preservation to the unexpected pleasures of dementia. 

Weaving in a host of contemporary issues - Brexit, mass migration, the coronavirus -  Lionel Shriver has pulled off a rollicking listen in which we never have to mourn deceased characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.

©2021 Lionel Shriver (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver. A married couple decide on a suicide pact to avoid the indignities of old age, in a satire on society’s attitudes to ageing that plays with multiple endings." (Guardian, 2021 in Books: What to Look Forward to this Year)

"The Cassandra of American letters." (New York Times)

"Readers will be entranced by Shriver’s freewheeling meditation on mortality and human agency." (Publishers Weekly)

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