Title: The Stager
Author: Susan Coll
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Elsa Jorgenson is not happy that her mother, Bella, and father, Lars, have decided they must move to London and leave their beloved home in Bethesda, Maryland, especially since Elsa’s rabbit, Dominique, has disappeared and will most likely be left behind. Elsa decides to befriend Eve, the home stager hired by their realtor, but what Elsa doesn’t know is that Eve has her own connection to the family, one that she doesn’t share with anyone.
The Stager is a thoughtful novel that is easy to read, with absolutely engaging characters and one laughable moment after another.
The Stager by Susan Coll is a unique novel, at once literary and compulsively readable. Her prose is beautiful but not snobby; the novel is accessible and easy to read, almost flowing like a thriller. It’s easy to settle down into this novel, even to read it in one sitting, because of Coll’s easy and approachable (but still lyrical) writing style.
Let’s face it: Elsa in The Stager is a brat. She’s the child of two parents who are too busy and involved with their careers/selves to really notice her, so Elsa’s been raised by nannies. She’s smart and precocious, and really has her run of things. That’s not to say she isn’t likeable though, which honestly surprised me. Often in books, I have trouble with kids, especially ones that constantly misbehave. But Elsa is so smart and calculating that it’s fun to watch her figure out exactly how to get her way, to manipulate the adults around her time and time again. I enjoyed getting to know her quite a bit.
From the beginning of The Stager, it’s clear that Eve isn’t telling the reader everything about her relationship with the Jorgensens. Coll’s hints are subtle; readers will notice her familiarity with things that she shouldn’t be familiar with, her unease at being in the Jorgensen house. But what is the secret here, and why hasn’t Eve disclosed it? It’s interesting to watch things unfold; Coll paces the novel well, using the twin mysteries (Dominique’s disappearance and Eve’s secret) as the devices that push the story forward. It might seem strange that the disappearance of a pet rabbit is enough to keep a reader hooked, but in Coll’s hands, it surely is the case.
A surprising novel, The Stager is a sharp, smart novel that hasn’t really gotten a lot of press. It’s a shame because this is really a fun novel, full of dysfunctional characters that readers will both enjoy and appreciate, as well as laughably ridiculous situations. It’s an easy read, but a thoughtful one, which makes a great read for the summer.