Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache

The day before I left for Ohio, Ellyn Bache's The Art of Saying Goodbye arrived in the mail. I loved the cover. And, even though I knew it was another novel about a group of women and a friend who died of cancer, I brought it with me. I enjoy novels that feature groups of women.

It's obvious from the opening pages that Paisley Lamm is going to die. The entire neighborhood in Brightwood Trace has tied white ribbons to their trees so Paisley can see them coming or going. But, it's four of the women whose feelings are uncovered in the course of the story. Ten years earlier, those four women, Andrea, Ione, Ginger, and Julianne, accepted an invitation for an evening in Paisley's hot tub. Although the women never really developed a closeness, that evening changed lives, and changed their feelings about Paisley, the bright star of the neighborhood who everyone admired and envied at the same time.

Bache's novel covers just a brief period of time, a couple months, with flashbacks to earlier episodes. In a departure from other women's novels, the five women in this book are not close. But, each woman reflects on her relationship with Paisley. Andrea thought of Paisley as her best friend, the woman who helped her through her daughter's own bout with cancer. Ione, a widow, held herself aloof from the group. Paisley pushed Ginger and her husband into better lives, suggesting career changes. And, Julianne, who crashed ten years later, became a nurse practitioner, the one who discovered Paisley's cancer. Then, there's Paisley herself. It's not until page 77 that the author allows Paisley's voice to be heard, and then only in flashbacks. Until then, and in most of the book, the reader sees Paisley only through the eyes of the others.

Paisley Lamm's life, her brief bout with cancer, and her death, changed many in the neighborhood. Bache focuses on the women, but, it's also interesting to watch the reactions of teenage daughters, Paisley's and other girls. The Art of Saying Goodbye does not always show people in flattering ways, but it's more realistic than many novels.

On a personal note, this was fascinating. Paisley Lamm suffered from the same cancer my husband died from, pancreatic cancer with metastis to the liver. It's a cancer that moves quickly, particularly once it progresses to the liver. And, Paisley went through many of the stages that Jim went through, ones that I did not know were typical of this type of cancer. In both cases, it was a fast-moving disease.

Everyone has secrets in their lives. And, every life impacts people in differing ways. Ellen Bache's The Art of Saying Goodbye is unusual in showing that in a novel that doesn't bring friends closer, but allows women to be different, and unique.

Ellyn Bache's website is

The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache. William Morrow. ©2011. ISBN 9780062033680 (paperback). 344p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


bermudaonion said...

Bache is a local author for me. The launch party for this book is Saturday, but I won't be able to make it because we'll be out of town for a wedding. I've ordered a book from the launch, though, so I'm glad to see it's realistic.

Kay said...

That is an interesting twist on the typical women-friends novel. I've had this one on my radar as a women's friendship book. Good to know your thoughts and I think I'll be looking for it soon.

Lesa said...


I'm sorry you'll be out of town for the launch. I'll be eager to hear what you think of the book.

Lesa said...


It is an interesting twist, not quite what I expected. But, that's good that it wasn't what I expected.

Pamela Keener said...

Thanks for the review. I also love reading about women friends and this one sounds different enough to be interesting.
Love & Hugs,

Lesa said...

Thank you,Pam. I hope you enjoy the book!

Elizabeth C. Main said...

This sounds like a fascinating twist on a storyline that can be tough to read, but is often rewarding and cathartic. It hits home on so many levels with me. Thanks for illuminating the way this book differs from others. Liz

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. This book does differ from others that all start with a group of women and an issue. I hope you appreciate the book when you get a chance to read it.

Kris said...

This one sounds wonderful, thanks for a great review and I'm off to add it to my wish list.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kris. And, you know right up front about the death, so it won't come as a surprise.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm very sorry for your loss, and secondly, thank you for the great review of this book. I've had it downloaded on my e-reader for awhile now and your review has helped urge me to start reading it.