Title: Hello Goodbye
Author: Emily Chenoweth
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
In a single week, a family leaves behind its past and a daughter awakens to the future in Emily Chenoweth’s intimate and beautifully crafted debut novel.
In the winter of 1990, Helen Hansen–counselor, wife, and mother in the prime of her life–is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The following August, Helen, her husband, Elliott, and their daughter, Abby, a freshman in college, take a trip to northern New Hampshire, where Helen will be able to say goodbye to a lifetime of friends. Ensconced in a historic resort in the White Mountains–a place where afternoon cocktails are served on the veranda and men are expected to wear jackets after six–the Hansens and their guests must improvise their own rituals of remembrance and reconnection.
For Elliott, the trip is a parting gift to his beloved wife, as well as some needed respite from the caretaking duties that have become his main work. For Helen and the procession of old friends who come to pay their respects, the days offer a poignant celebration of a dear, too-brief life. And for Abby, still unaware that her mother’s cancer is terminal, the week brings a surprising conflict between loyalty and desire as, drawn by the youthful, spirited hotel staff, she finds herself caught between the affections of two very different young men.
Heartbreaking and luminous, Hello Goodbye deftly explores a family’s struggle with love and loss, as a summer vacation becomes an occasion for awakening rather than farewell, and life inevitably blossoms in the face of death.
Hello Goodbye is a beautifully written novel about life, love, and loss. Though this is Emily Chenoweth’s first novel, she writes like a master of the craft. Her prose is unflinchingly honest, yet gorgeous. The words convey a deep sense of emotion while still being luminous.
Though Hello Goodbye deals with death, the novel is never heavy or depressing. Instead, it is a beautiful portrayal of life. It’s about saying goodbye in the happiest way possible. I liked the idea of old friends gathering for one last hurrah before bidding farewell to one of their own. It is a beautiful, moving, and sympathetic portrait of the joys and sorrows of life.
Elliott’s decision not to tell Helen or Abby that Helen’s brain cancer is terminal one is a difficult one to justify. On one hand, I do understand that he wanted to protect his wife and daughter, to give them hope and happiness in the face of the darkness that is to come. But on the other hand, not giving the full information, especially to Helen herself, seems disrespectful. It’s a difficult dilemma, and is one that speaks a lot about Elliott’s character and his desire to protect those he loves.
My favorite character in Hello Goodbye was Abby. Chenoweth portrays the struggles and feelings of a woman just entering into adulthood so convincingly. She is terrified about her mother’s health, but also becomes easily irritated with how the cancer is affecting Helen. She simply doesn’t know how to handle the situation that is unfolding around her. All she wants is to be a normal twenty-year-old girl, concerned with college and boys.
Hello Goodbye is a heartbreaking portrait at a family that is on the verge of falling apart. It is a glimpse at their last moments of normalcy, of their attempts to live life, before their worlds shatter around them. I definitely recommend this novel to fans of literary fiction or women’s fiction.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review.