Jenny Hubbard’s outstanding debut novel, 2011’s Paper Covers Rock, was set at a boys’ boarding school in the 1980s, where a young man struggled to find his poetic voice while overcoming a personal tragedy. Hubbard’s second novel, And We Stay, explores many of the same themes from a female perspective.
It’s early 1995, and Emily Beam has just started school at Amherst School for Girls, notable for its most famous alumna, Emily Dickinson. No one at ASG knows Emily’s whole story, which she begins to explore via poems, although she’s never before had any inclination to write poetry. As Emily attempts to fit in at ASG and strives to articulate her feelings about the events surrounding her boyfriend’s recent death, she begins to feel a real kinship with Dickinson, whose work proves “to other daughters of America, the ones who endure, who rise like rare birds from the ashes, that they are not alone.”
Hubbard is an accomplished poet as well as a novelist, and Emily Beam’s poems are remarkably good. Writing these poems leads Emily out of the darkness of a New England winter and into a fragile spring—out of tragedy and into something resembling hope.