Sometimes, I daydream about getting on a plane and flying away from all the craziness that is my regular, everyday life. So when I read the description for Katherine Lin’s You Can’t Stay Here Forever (which, by the way, is such a rude title - why can’t I stay there forever?!), I knew I needed to read it.

Ellie has a pretty good life - a wonderful husband and solid job at a prestigious San Francisco law firm. But when her husband unexpectedly dies in a car accident, her world comes crashing down around her. Just days after the accident, Ellie finds out that he had a mistress - a colleague from her law firm. Desperate to escape the reality her world has become, she cashes in her late husband’s life insurance policy and books a first class ticket to Antibes, France for her and her free-spirited best friend Mable. The pair meet an intriguing couple, Fauna and Robbie, and as the four become increasingly intimate, things start to take a turn and long-simmering tensions start to bubble to the surface.

A story of loss and grief wrapped in the beautiful package of the French Riviera. While the exact situation may not be relatable to everyone, the emotions that are hidden underneath are universal. Ellie is able to do what I’m sure many of us wish we could do when the world feels like it’s falling apart - run away. But she learns (as do we by following her story) that changing the setting doesn’t eliminate the complicated emotions intertwined with her grief.

Ellie’s relationships with Mable and her mother are key to her figuring out what this “after” is going to look like. While they go through some immense growing pains throughout the book, it’s a great look into how our connections keep us afloat, even as we feel like we are drifting out to sea.

I absolutely tore through this book, turning page after page until, suddenly, there were no more pages to turn. Contemporary literary fiction is not a genre that I read a lot of and, when I do, it usually takes me a few sittings to get through. Not the case with this book. The author injected so much raw human emotion into the story that I felt like I needed to stick around to also help Ellie get through her journey, as if I was also a part of her healing process.

I won’t (and can’t) do it, but my goodness, this book really made me want to quit my job and become a travel blogger and explore all the beautiful places around the world I’ve never been. My wanderlust has never been stoked so thoroughly before and I hope one day I’ll be able to see the beauty that Ellie got to see in her worst moments.

You Can’t Stay Here Forever is Katherine Lin’s enchanting debut and you can pick up a copy for yourself here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."