Author Lionel Shriver on her new book, ‘Should We Stay or Should We Go’

headshot and book cover
Lionel Shriver is the author of many books. Her latest is “Should We Stay or Should We Go,” a surprisingly playful novel that explores how we age and how we die.
Mark Kohn and Harper Collins

After Kay Wilkinson watches her father devolve from a kind and intelligent man into a paranoid stranger due to Alzheimer’s disease, she and her husband make a pact. Once they both turn 80, they will take their own lives together — the better to spare themselves and their loved ones a humiliating and protracted decline.

But what really happens when they turn 80?

That’s the premise of Lionel Shriver’s new novel “Should We Stay or Should We Go.” The Wilkinsons are in their early ‘50s when they firmly decide 80 is their drop-dead date. But when they actually cross that threshold, the novel spins out a dozen alternative scenarios. One spouse goes through with it, while the other doesn’t. Maybe they enter a luxurious retirement village or their children stuff them into a grim, state-run institution called, paradoxically, Close of Day Cottages. 

Friday, host Kerri Miller talked with Shriver about her intensely personal book. How does one cope with the complexities of longevity? Is there a way to live a long, vibrant life and still go out in style?

Guest:

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