What We Give, What We Take

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Now available from Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere, including hometown favorites, East End Books Ptown and Porter Square Books. Read what book reviewers and others are saying.

What We Give, What We Take (She Writes Press, 2022) tells the unforgettable story of Fay Stonewell, a water tank escape artist in Florida, who leaves for Vietnam in 1967 to join the Amazing Humans—a jerry-rigged carnival that’s traveled there to entertain the troops—abandoning her disabled teenage son, Dickie, to the care of an abusive boyfriend.

Months after Fay’s departure, Dickie’s troubled home life ends in a surprising act of violence that forces him to run away. He soon lands in Manhattan, where he’s taken in by eccentric artist Laurence Jones. Fay, meanwhile, is also facing dangerous threats. From the night her plane jolts onto a darkened Saigon runway, she must confront every bad decision she’s ever made as she struggles to return to her son. 

Decades later, Dickie is forty, living in a Massachusetts coastal town with a man who’s dying of AIDS, and doing everything he can to escape his past. But although Spin may be giving Dickie what he’s always wanted—a home without wheels—it seems that the farther Dickie runs, the tighter the past clings to him. What We Give, What We Take is a deeply moving story of second chances and rising above family circumstances—however dysfunctional they may be.

Read and excerpt from What We Give, What We Take in A&U: America’s AIDS Magazine.

Read “This Is Where My Story Begins,” Randi’s personal essay in The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, about why she writes stories with characters living with AIDS.

“Those who expect a feel-good novel to come from all this will be disappointed. But they will be captured by very good writing and wonderful portraits of Fay and Dickie. . . . A very fine novel about a mother’s love and a son’s survival.”  

Kirkus Reviews

“At once tender, cruel, sensitive, and raw, What We Give, What We Take is a searing novel in which wounded people make hard decisions in order to survive.”

Foreword Reviews 

What We Give, What We Take is the indelible portrait of a mother and son eking out lives on the periphery, first together, then apart. With a tenderness for life’s misfits that recalls Carson McCullers, Randi Triant, in this remarkable novel, hauntingly evokes Fay’s and Dickie’s complexities, and those of the men and women who exploit, brutalize, nurture and adore them.”

Claire Messud, author of national bestsellers
The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children 

“A haunting novel about people driven by longings beyond the boundaries of everyday life. Randi Triant tells a story that shimmers with surprises and insights about a world that’s tilted towards unconventional answers to universal questions about love and desire. Rapid and unblinking, it’s unforgettable.”

Maria Flook, author of New York Times bestseller Invisible Eden