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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  3,637 ratings  ·  401 reviews
From the bestselling author of Sweetbitter, a memoir of growing up in a family shattered by lies and addiction, and of one woman's attempts to find a life beyond the limits of her past. Stray is a moving, sometimes devastating, brilliantly written and ultimately inspiring exploration of the landscapes of damage and survival.

After selling her first novel--a dream she'd work
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 19th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,637 ratings  ·  401 reviews

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Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary, memoir
I can’t wait for everyone to read this book. Sweetbitter was a wonderful read, if a little too MFA graduate for me, but Stray is a feat. The writing is clear and beautiful and never condescends. She is careful with her subjects and careless with herself, which is to say she’s incredibly honest with us. Definitely recommend!!
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm still musing on this, mulling it over and trying to wrap my head around it. Stephanie Danler is not nice to herself in this book. She's harsh on everyone - herself, her parents, the people around her. I spent a lot of this book with my heart in my throat, sad for her past and her seeming inability to realize that she isn't actually living in the present while she tries to move on from her horrible childhood. The things she does feel so reactionary and yet believable. This book is the story o ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
How did she manage to hit my mommy issues, daddy issues, and commitment issues all in 233 pages? Beautiful.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was incredibly well written and kept my interest from beginning to end. I expect this will be a huge bestseller when it pubs, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it as a celebrity book club selection. Stephanie Danler has cemented herself as a literary superstar and will have a successful writing career with many books in her future.

THAT SAID.... I just couldn't stand Danler. I've never met her and am willing to believe she might actually be a very nice person, but I can only form an op
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
I am obviously not the target audience for this memoir. While I found the situation that Ms Danler found herself in as a child of a truly dysfunctional family was horrible, I just could not seem to drum up the empathy factor that should have been there for her.

I felt the writing was flat, unemotional, and dispassionate. It was if the author was viewing her life not really living it.

I do realize that writing a memoir can be a cathartic process for anyone, but the story seem to be impassive and pe
This memoir from Stephanie Danler, recounting the trauma and aftermath of a life with two addicted parents, is a well-written, insightful look behind the curtain of her experiences and how it’s impacted who she is today. Her youth to adulthood was marked by instability, the divorce of her parents, both parents using and abusing drugs and alcohol, physical and emotional abuse, shuttling between homes, and dealing with narcissistic behavior from those meant to set the example for her and her young ...more
Nada Elshabrawy
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, english
Great writing style, very engaging. However I thought the story was same old same.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How many bestselling novelists follow up their debut success with a memoir? I was deeply curious why Stephanie Danler chose to steer away from fiction, but reading Stray, I could see how there would be no detour for her but to write this book. From start to finish, Stephanie Danler’s memoir maintains a firm grip on the reader through her clear eyed narration from the perspective of a child of California, drawn back to the landscape and the people she loves—despite every challenge. She’s an uproo ...more
Inquisitive Bookworm
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-releases
Although I didn't love STRAY quite as much as the author's debut novel, SWEETBITTER, I still found it incredibly captivating. Danler doesn't hold back in this memoir --- she criticizes herself, her parents, and her relationships. I love a highly introspective viewpoint, and Danler certainly delivered in that regard. I'm still not quite sure how Danler managed to cover so many topics (addiction, fear of commitment, precarious relationships with both her parents, etc.) in just 233 pages, but she d ...more
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, audiobooks
Is there anything more tiresome than reading about someone’s tortured affair with an asshole?
Wynne Kontos
Apr 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I met Stephanie Danler a few years ago at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where she sat on a panel with Teddy Wayne (and others) discussing "youth in revolt" or "unlikeable youth" etc. I knew she was speaking and knew I would be there volunteering with Lost Lit/Grumpy Bert and meant to bring my copy of "Sweetbitter," but of course I forgot. I introduced myself and told her I was attending the New School's writing program, herself a graduate from a few years prior. She was gracious and kind, wished m ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: from-goodreads
Sigh. I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile but ultimately found it forgettable. Danler is a beautiful writer and lays a lot of personal trauma out for this memoir. However, it seemed all she cared about was delivering tantalizing and ethereal writing and not much about the events or the reading experience. This was really poorly organized and she held back on everything aside from her parents. Which wouldn’t have been an issue if that was the focus, but a lot of the book was about he ...more
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this memoir through an audiobook narrated by Alex McKenna and it was wonderful. I love memoirs and Stephanie Danler’s account of her past, living through parental failures, addressing issues of mental health, substance abuse, and trauma was truly heartbreaking and immersive. The fragility of our relationships and how it affects many years later, consuming you is a very important topic to address. Danler does it so brilliantly in this fearless memoir I highly recommend.
Jun 18, 2020 rated it liked it
It's my own fault for reading a therapy memoir from a privileged person who is writing to her Iowa workshop about her heartache for deciding to have a relationship with a married man. ...more
Elaina W
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I read Sweetbitter and enjoyed some of the sentences and the time in NYC Stephanie depicts.

I was excited to pick up her memoir, but found it flat, tone deaf, and out of touch.

All she does is whine about how hard her life is. Can anyone publish a memoir these days???
Jul 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
In a word, insufferable.

I hated the writing and I hated the author. I can understand how writing something like this can be a powerful step in some sort of emotional recovery journey, but why the heck would you put this out there for the public? It was hard to power through close to 250 pages with zero sympathy for the narrator, whose biggest problem in one chapter was that their dad wouldn't drive them to an interview at Kenyon?! 🙄 Imagine thinking that was a problem other people, strangers in
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
The writer had an interesting childhood with both parents being not only eccentric but addicts; her mom with alcohol and her dad almost every drug available. She also seemed to have had some privilege (attending private school, traveling abroad) that made it harder for me to sympathize with her at points. There was too much historical context on Los Angeles landmarks. I got bored with those. The story was all over the place and hard to follow. I couldn't place Eli for a few chapters. I thought m ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nothing is ever simply black and white but people will still refuse to see the gray until you show them.

Stray discusses three things in earnest-Stephanie Danler's mother, her father and her affair with a married man. I could write about how carefully she explores her childhood, as now seen through the eyes of an adult. How addiction affected every aspect of her life and yet she didn't succumb to it, herself. Instead I want to share how much I appreciated her honesty about having an affair.

Brittany Viklund
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Stephanie’s words struck a very intimate chord within my own life experiences, this book was everything I never knew I needed in words. Thank you Stephanie for your bravery in sharing your own story, so openly. This book was beautiful & I also appreciated the interwoven sentiments about the Southern California landscapes, as someone who grew up & maintains family in those areas I enjoyed the inclusion of this fascinating insight.
Hayley Rosenfield
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Pretty sure I will love anything Stephanie Danler writes, even if only for the juicy sensory descriptions. There were times when those descriptions of her traumatic childhood caused me to recoil, and they certainly built compassion for her, and admiration for her making it as far as she has in life. As others have mentioned, some of the choices that Danler makes in this book tested that empathy, but she never lost me completely. Ultimately, the conclusion that she comes to left me feeling hopefu ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've loved Stephanie Danler since I read Sweetbitter three years ago, and I've avidly followed her Instagram account and book recommendations since then. It always seemed like Danler had such a perfect life from her photos -- reading alllll the time, traveling the world, being a best-selling author. Obviously, I should know by now that that is almost never the cases -- however, it is very, very hard for me to reconcile the fashionable and savvy woman I follow on Instagram with the woman who wrot ...more
Brandi | the_reading_bee
Although I did enjoy this, I found it a little disjointed. I'm not sure what the flow of the memoir was supposed to be other than random stories about the author's life which I did find interesting. The audio was well done. I do wish I read her first book, Sweetbriar, first. Maybe it would have given me better context for this book. ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020, arc
Heavy nonfiction that kept my attention in a season that has me reading only the most entertaining of fiction. Inherited family trauma, addiction, abandonment, how to accept love. Really sharp and courageous writing, lots of beautiful lines I had to reread. I loved how she framed this memoir by the places she’s lived and her connection to them, and looking forward to seeing how her voice translates to fiction in Sweetbitter!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.
Renee (some kind of a library)
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
"Epiphanies aren't lightning bolts. They are a hummed note, a prayer mumbled constantly, brought to the surface given the right conditions."

So much of what I loved about Sweetbitter shined even more brightly in Stephanie Danler's memoir STRAY. The writing! The writing. Oh gosh, the writing. I feel inadequate to describe what exactly kept me turning these pages. When it comes to the way Danler is able to meander through her life, connecting feelings and emotions about everything from a neglected
J Mae
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was a very big fan of Sweetbitter. It was the perfect combination of literary fiction, poetic language and page-turner, reminded me of Eve Babitz (whose collection Black Swans Danler wrote a forward to). The characters felt so real, and I found it utterly absorbing.

Okay-sorry to be down on the new book, but I felt like this was something she wrote in between novels (hoping she'll come out with another novel at some point.) Yes, it's incredibly tragic what she went through with her parents, bu
Lexie Frensley
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoy Stephanie Danler's writing and I admire her for putting herself out there in this book -- it seemed like she got so fed up with people's assumptions post Sweetbitter that she felt she had to tell this story. That being said, I still think people should be at least 40 years old before even considering their memoir! It seems like she is too close to what has happened to a) find a narrative arc and b) flesh out the complexities. I wonder if this would have worked better as a collection of e ...more
Barbara Bakal
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
Depressing, repetitive.
Caroline Tory
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“It’s in the act of having, the daily tending, that we have the opportunity to become deserving. It’s not a place to be reached. It is a constant betwixt and between.”

This memoir is full of so many treasures like this one. As a child of privilege and a generally easy, loving family, I thought I might not be able to relate to this book - which reveals Stephanie's traumatic childhood dealing with an alcoholic mother and drug-addicted father. And yet, there were so many pages that I dog-eared and l
Jenny Wheelbarrow
It was just okay. At time I forgot this was a memoir of living with addicted parents because it seemed a little sensational. I did not care if I finished or not, but I did. She addresses drug related trauma including being kicked out of her home and living with others, but provides only a cursory account of her own addictions to drugs and extramarital sexual encounters. Would loved for her to dive deeper. In the end she finds love and perhaps even peace. Completely forgettable read.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is written unlike anything I've read before, yet it's clear to see the strong tradition to which it belongs. ...more
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Mt. Lebanon Publi...: Stray 1 3 Jun 09, 2020 12:33PM  

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Stephanie Danler is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School. Sweetbitter is her debut novel.

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Anne Lamott, the beloved writer of memoirs including Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, once said, “You own everything that happened to you....
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“We don’t receive the things we want because we deserve them. Most of the time we get them because we are blind and lucky. It’s in the act of having, the daily tending, that we have an opportunity to become deserving. It’s not a place to be reached. It is a constant betwixt and between. It’s in that hollow, liminal space that I think—hope?—humility can be achieved.” 4 likes
“Epiphanies aren’t lightning bolts. They are a hummed note, a prayer mumbled constantly, brought to the surface given the right conditions. It’s as if I am always hearing three ways, first shallowly, collecting, then one level deeper as I’m processing, and finally, I am hearing with my body, which is when I’m hearing myself. That’s one way, for me, information combines with experience and becomes knowledge. I wish there were a shortcut.” 2 likes
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