Summary and book reviews of Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

Save Yourself

By Kelly Braffet

Save Yourself
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Aug 2013,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: May 2014,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

A gripping novel full of suspense and pathos that Dennis Lehane calls an "electrifying, tomahawk missile of a thriller."

Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail; he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store; and his brother's girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level.  On top of all that, he can't quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn't understand, and doesn't fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing Patrick to his breaking point.

Meanwhile, Layla's little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school.  She's become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla's bad-girl rep proves to be too a huge shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister's circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined.

Kelly Braffet's characters, indelibly portrayed and richly varied, are all on their own twisted path to finding peace.  The result is a novel of unnerving power - darkly compelling, addictively written, and shockingly honest.

One

Patrick worked the day shift at Zoney's GoMart one Wednesday a month: sealed into the vacuum-packed chill behind the convenience store's dirty plate-glass windows, watching cars zoom by on the highway while he stood still. When he worked nights, the way he usually did, the world was dark and quiet and calm outside and it made him feel dark and quiet and calm inside. When he worked days, all he felt was trapped.

So by the time he made it out of the store that evening, he was just glad to be free. His eyes were hot with exhaustion and the odor of the place lingered on his clothes--stale potato chips, old candy, the thick syrupy smell of the soda fountain--but the warm September air felt good. As he rounded the corner of the building and headed toward the Dumpsters where he'd parked, back where the asphalt had almost crumbled into gravel and the weeds grew tall right up to the edge of the lot, the car keys in his hand were still cold from the air conditioner. That was all he was...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

There are instances when the extreme darkness seems endless but Braffet’s incisive writing is brilliant and edgy and it keeps you reading through the worst of it. There’s something strangely mesmerizing in watching the characters’ brave struggles.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews
Booklist

Sex is the driving force here - as power, as weapon, and as shield - and the sweaty mechanics of the few characters recall Tennessee Williams (and would look awfully good filmed in black and white). Perceptive, nervy, and with broad cross-genre appeal.

Kirkus Reviews

Braffet writes beautifully, but the over-the-top human cruelty and depravity she incorporates in this story are both disturbing and creepy. A horrifying look at damaged people who owe all they are to their awful parents.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Braffet (Last Seen Leaving) uses graceful prose, astute dialogue, and vivid characters to carry the plot to an unexpected and believable finale.

Author Blurb Dennis Lehane, author of Live by Night
Kelly Braffet is the real deal.  Save Yourself is an electrifying, tomahawk missile of a thriller with honest-to-God people at its core. It rocks the house.

Author Blurb Megan Abbott, author of Dare Me
Kelly Braffet's Save Yourself is that rare and beautiful thing - a novel that takes us to dark places not just through vivid storytelling but also through keen emotional force. It's a tale of damaged families and the perilous weight of the past, and as the action rushes towards its chilling conclusion, you'll find yourselves breathless, shaken, moved.

Author Blurb Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures
Astonishing. Save Yourself goes deep into the hidden and shameful parts of grief, love, and anger, and the reader emerges shaken and grateful on the far end. It's a lacerating read, and proves that Braffet is a writer in full command of her many, many talents.

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Food Deserts

In Save Yourself, Patrick Cusimano works at Zoney's, a 24-hour convenience store in a small fictional town in Pennsylvania called Ratchetsburg. He finds his candy-striped uniform and the sterile atmosphere of the place stifling, yet work here is one of just a few options for town residents. From what Braffet describes, it seems like Zoney's is the only food store around for miles. Such areas, where access to fresh produce and food is quite limited, are labeled "food deserts."

Food Desert MapAccording to the USDA, an area qualifies as a food desert if it is both a "low-income" community and also a "low-access" community. "Low income" as defined for these purposes by the USDA is a census tract (a statistical segment of a county designated for census ...

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