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Publisher's Summary

When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over 10 years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief?

Both healthy and vital medical professionals in their early 50s, Kay and her husband, Cyril, have seen too many of their elderly NHS patients in similar states of decay. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal: they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned 80. When their deal is sealed in 1991, the spouses are blithely looking forward to another three decades together.

But then they turn 80.

By turns hilarious and touching, playful and grave, Should We Stay or Should We Go portrays 12 parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for Kay and Cyril, from a purgatorial Cuckoo’s-Nest-style retirement home to the discovery of a cure for ageing, from cryogenic preservation to the unexpected pleasures of dementia. 

Weaving in a host of contemporary issues - Brexit, mass migration, the coronavirus - Lionel Shriver has pulled off a rollicking pause-resister in which we never have to mourn deceased characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.

©2021 Lionel Shriver (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver. A married couple decide on a suicide pact to avoid the indignities of old age, in a satire on society’s attitudes to ageing that plays with multiple endings." (Guardian, 2021 in Books: What to Look Forward to this Year)

"The Cassandra of American letters." (New York Times)

"Readers will be entranced by Shriver’s freewheeling meditation on mortality and human agency." (Publishers Weekly)

"Shriver said that her favourite novels are those that pack both an intellectual and emotional punch. With Should We Stay or Should We Go, she’s added triumphantly to their number." (The Times)

"Hilarious.... Fiery phrases spit and crackle. Disgust expands and bursts into belly laughs...a very funny book." (Sunday Times

"I think Shriver’s novels are wonderful...fun, smart and, perhaps because of their author’s unconventional political views, unlike anything else you’ll read." (Financial Times

"Both entertaining and poignant." (Daily Mail

"This sharp-elbowed satire is also a brusquely tender portrait of enduring love." (Washington Post)

"Thought-provoking, timely, and extremely funny." (Metro)

What listeners say about Should We Stay or Should We Go

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  • Denise
  • 20-06-2021

Great food for thought as we age!

This is the 3rd Lionel Shriver book I've listened to and is arguably the best. Cleverly written with humour and pathos, it strikes a chord for anyone contemplating what might happen in older age, especially if you have seen the suffering and indignity that goes with dementia and cancer amongst loved ones. Definitely food for thought!!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sue Nelson
  • 23-07-2021

pronunciation was irritating at times

very thought provoking narrative and really engaged me as a listener but the mispronounciation of many words and names was a distraction and detracted from my enjoyment which otherwise was great.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 17-07-2021

Great book but poorly read

Found the narrator a bit irritating. Her pronunciation and emphasis on some words completely wrong. Notably: Aldeburgh, Dignitas, Laos....and a few others

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  • MR PAUL DUCKWORTH
  • 17-07-2021

Lionel Shriver definitely should stay.

A unique perspective from the author who apparently spends half her time in NYC, and the other in London, UK. I’ve enjoyed her other novels, but this was particularly amusing.I could tell she was having such fun writing about euthanasia and Covid! Maybe my favourite. In fact I’m going out on a limb. I preferred this to ‘Kevin. Thanks for some laughs and thought provoking ideas. Bravo. Love from the not-so-trendy part of Hackney, London, UK on the hottest day of the year 2021. x

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  • Mrs N Matthias
  • 06-07-2021

Awful book, rambling and so boring

I really enjoy some of Lionel Shriver's books, and I had high hopes after reading previous reviews, but this was just awful. I tried to return it to audible after 1 chapter, droning, self righteous rubbish. Don't waste a credit or your money.

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  • Mrs H C Schuster Bruce
  • 05-07-2021

wise words from the guru

A must listen for everyone who grows old! Lionel at her best. she was having fun with the Brexit references and her own cameo!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-07-2021

Thought provoking

Really interesting with its alternative scenarios. Very poorly read, with mispronunciations, bad phrasing and stresses.

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  • Martin
  • 02-07-2021

interesting options for old age

Thought provoking . I thought the idea of one starting point and a series of variable outcomes worked very well - some more realistic than others!
My only real criticism was the need to write herself into one of the stories. I found this irritating and egotistic.
about I would recommend for all adults !

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  • Judy Corstjens
  • 27-06-2021

We need to talk about Euthanasia

Lionel Shriver puts her inventive, analytical, mind to an extended thought experiment on how to deal with our very long and often medically prolonged lives. Her protagonists, Kay and husband Cyril, cycle through numerous alternative realities illustrating the pro’s and cons of various life-strategies. Although the subject of euthanasia, care costs and financial planning does not seem terribly promising, I found this book an absolute page turner (or, in Audible terms, a ‘pavement pounder’ as I scheduled hours of extra walking to get back to the book). I also frequently laughed out loud - yes, as I walked the streets and the characters faced the worse. This is not exactly a novel, more of an extended therapy session with your specially gifted personal financial advisor, but none-the-less a very good read.

Narration, professional but ‘sarcastic’. The narrator frequently inserts a sneer into a character’s voice when I can sense none indicated in the text. I suppose such character interpretation is a question of taste and up to the personality of the reader, but I tend to be positive and first degree unless told otherwise by the author, and I didn’t appreciate the meaner interpretation sometimes injected by the narrator.

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  • Katharine Kirby
  • 25-06-2021

Wow this is terrific, her Tour de Force best since Kevin

Wonderful narration in a perfect calm attractive ‘twinkly’ amused and utterly sympathetic style I could listen to Hannah Curtis forever she is a totally competent, clear and believable reader. Even as Cyril her voice came across as individual to him with no need really to say He Said over and over. My regular gripe about audible is that women reading as male characters can’t help but make them sound creepy and querulous though. Why not employ a male actor to read the men’s lines? Vice versa is also true. Hannah did her best though.

The story is wonderful, thought provoking, and endlessly interesting. This time Lionel Shiver throws everything into the mix and it’s bang up to date, the first book I’ve read that acknowledges the pandemic, hurray. Even better still this is absolutely UK centric, none of the usual US references. I got the strong feeling that she enjoyed writing it tremendously. I will go on thinking about this for ages. It would be brilliant for book clubs.

Lionel Shriver even wickedly and hilariously writes herself into her story and it’s great to have casual allusions to previous characters. Loved it!

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