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Image source: Gayle Forman

5 Books like If I Stay: All the Love in the World

Mandy Baldwin itcherGayle Forman’s 2009 novel is an elegy to the hope which travels alongside terrible loss. When everything seems to have been taken, the life which remains is fearfully fragile and love becomes infinitely precious. Books like ‘If I Stay’, ‘The Last Song’, or ‘Not Forgotten’ are stories and memoirs that explore the beauty of living as if tomorrow may never come. ~ Mandy Baldwin

Music as the Stuff of Life

Mia is a talented musician with a life full of exciting options ahead of her. But one cold morning there is an accident on a snowy road.  In one split second, her choices are swept away and all that is left is the simple decision: should she stay alive?

The lives of so many characters in this book are centred on music; with superlative skill, Forman has managed to weave their stories into a lyrically written book. There really is something musical about her prose.

One word of warning: a book like ‘If I Stay’ should not be read on the commute. Save it for a time when you have privacy to cry, or even better, can cry on the shoulder of someone who understands love.

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Books Similar to ‘If I Stay’…

‘The Last Song’ (Nicholas Sparks, 2009)

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This is a story about love in all it’s forms, told through the challenges facing a seventeen year old girl, Veronica (AKA Ronnie).

One summer, Ronnie must re-connect with her father whom she has not seen since her parents’ divorce three years earlier. After being forced to a long holiday with him, what she learns about her father and his life will change hers forever.

Her relationships with her extended family and her resentment toward her mother are also explored. And to top it all off, during the long, hot summer, she falls in love for the first time.

It’s rare for a writer to be able to express the poignancy of first love without becoming mawkish but Sparks carries this off perfectly.

Similarity Match: 90%
Another fine story of love which survives trauma, but with a ‘teen romance’ twist.

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‘The Last Days Of My Mother’ (Solvi Bjorb Sigurdsson, 2014)

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A thirty-seven year old man recently dumped by his girlfriend, depressed and unemployed, is almost enjoying wallowing in his own misery. When his mother is diagnosed with cancer, mother and son decide to go to Amsterdam to try an alternative treatment at a Dutch clinic.

But this is no pilgrimage: the mother is argumentative to the point of being anarchic, drinking heavily and hilariously interested in the red light district. A booze-fuelled trip with her shambling, morose son, is unlikely to go smoothly.

‘The Last Days of my Mother’ is wonderful, hysterically funny, and heartrending in equal measures.

Similarity Match: 85%
Despite the oddity of this re-bonding road-trip, this is full of love and the pain of loss.

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‘Ashes Of Life’ (Erica Lucke Dean, 2015)

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Alex has been married for three months and has just learned that she is pregnant when her husband David is killed in an accident.  

Stunned with grief, she must now take responsibility for her teenage step-daughter, Maddie, who dreamt that one day her parents would reconcile. Adding to Alex’s anxieties is the fact that David was with his ex-wife when he died. Maddie is filled with resentment: for Alex, for David, and even for the icy road which caused his death.

Lost in sadness, they must find a way to support each other and move beyond the pain. And waiting in the wings is Alex’s unborn child.

A beautiful portrayal of the triumph of love over mistrust and anger.

Similarity Match: 80%
It’s family loss and love, but the dissonance of the ‘step’ relationship adds new complications.

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If You Like ‘If I Stay’, You Will Like…

These recommendations show two very different experiences of love and loss, as a child feels echoes of a past tragedy and a mother keeps her promise to her dying son.

As in books like ‘If I Stay’, these are full of love and the confirmation that love never dies, even after death.

‘Not Forgotten’ (Lesley Anne Anderson, 2015)

Anna has just confessed to her single-parent father that she can see ghosts. But when his first love reappears in his life, he is too distracted to give Anna much attention.  

Anna’s grandfather wants to help her understand that this supernatural ability is a natural inheritance from her Polish great-grandmother Rosalia, and takes her to Poland to visit the exact spot where Rosalia was shot dead by the Nazis.

Together, they explore their family heritage, and when Anna has fully accepted her ‘gift’, she begins to understand that there can be no feeling of loss unless there was great love.

A wonderful exploration of courage, the great depths of family love and how the choices we make impact it.

A journey through family love but the losses grieved are historic, and the supernatural element adds tension.

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‘End To End, With Love, X’ (Lorraine George, 2015)

The author explains this book far better than I can.  

“It was inspired by a promise. I made that promise to my brave and inspirational 21 year old son, as his life slipped away due to Leukaemia.

I promised to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End for us both; it was the ride we had planned to do together to help him regain his fitness after treatment… I have always tried to live my life to the full; now that sense of each moment being so very precious has never been in sharper focus.”

Lorraine George

This is what all the novels on this list try to express: how vivid life is when it is lived with the fear of loss.

‘End To End’ is a journey in every sense of the word. Beautifully written, incredibly moving, and straight from the heart.

The reality which provides the inspiration for all these recommendations.

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The Last Word

These books are poignant and terrifying – they show bravery and true love, and their stories are so beautiful, they will steal your soul. When you read them, maybe like me, you can only hope to absorb some of that courage and wisdom they express.

Are you ready to embark on a journey of the heart? Please share your thoughts below.

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