Wednesday, June 08, 2011
The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache
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 www.ellynbache.com
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.