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If You Want Me to Stay

Parker, Michael

183 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1565124847 / ISBN 13: 9781565124844
Published by Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 2005
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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A Fine copy of this novel, in a Fine dust jacket. Signed by the author at the title page. Bookseller Inventory # 000661

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Bibliographic Details

Title: If You Want Me to Stay

Publisher: Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC

Publication Date: 2005

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First Edition

About this title


In Michael Parker’s new novel, Joel Dunn Jr. tells the story of how he did everything he could to save his family after his mother left and his father’s tenuous hold on sanity unraveled. On a journey from the town of Trent, North Carolina, to the coast, Joel and his little brother Tank thread their way back to their mother, fueled by potato chips, Coke, and the soundtrack of the powerful soul music that their daddy taught them to love. Always keeping the faith that their mother is waiting for them, they move from one kindly stranger to another on their odyssey, Joel ever certain they are being guided to her door: “I was being passed from person to person,” he says, “on my way back into her wide open window.”

Caught between the endless idealism of childhood and the sobering tests of adulthood, Joel and Tank bravely negotiate their way through a landscape of love and beauty, abandonment and betrayal, to learn that the one sure thing is often right by your side.


Sometimes Joel Dunn is "All Clear" and sometimes he isn't. His wife, his daughter and his three sons all know the signs: when he's "gone off" he isn't All Clear, and nobody knows when he will be again. If You Want Me To Stay is narrated by Joel Junior, whose words start the book: "That morning my daddy went of for the worst time." Joel Junior and his little brothers Carter and Tank lock themselves in the truck, hoping that Daddy will shake off the voices. According to Joel Junior's best lights about Daddy, "He is just following orders."

This time, the orders take a dreadful turn. Carter, hot and sweaty and sick of hiding out in the truck, leaves and heads back into the house, gaily calling out "He ain't even in here." His father grabs him around the neck, lops off his hair with a huge pair of scissors and cuts off his ear lobe in the bargain. Joel Junior and Tank see this and take off in the truck. A 14-year-old boy with no license and a little kid in tow, headed for who knows where. Some months before, his mother had gone off and no word had been heard from her. Then, his older sister left and she also disappeared. Joel Junior was the sane person in charge: loving, hating, frightened, brave, responsible, and wishing someone else would take over.

What follows is a stream-of-consciousness riff, a picaresque journey shot through with the soul music their Daddy taught them to love. Joel Junior sometimes cannot get the music out of his head; at other times he depends on the music to see him through the hard parts. He decides that he will search for their mother, who will surely take them in. His first stop is at his sister's, whom he has found through a friend. She tells him where to find their mother, and that the trip will be fruitless. He leaves Tank with her and, in a fugue state, hitchhikes his way to another town. He encounters a good-natured trucker, a kindly Mexican man, a "Streetclothes" policeman, a junkie alcoholic--and he believes that they are all leading him to his mother.

The inexorable ending of this story will break your heart, but it will also make you laugh, sometimes ruefully. The music in Joel Junior's head is telling him about love and, with no teachers other than soul singers, he is trying to make it up as he goes along. Read this short novel in one sitting; it'll knock you out. --Valerie Ryan

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