The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache

The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins
Review copy provided by the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Brightwood Trace, a neighborhood in suburbia similar to many others of its kind all over the country, is home to a diverse group of women who remain friends despite the fact that they are five very different people. But when Paisley, the life of the party and the glue that holds all five of them together, falls ill with terminal cancer, each of the women must find the strength to stick with Paisley through the worst of the worst. And in the process, each one of these women begins to look at her life in a whole new light.

I hate that I have to write this review in the honest way that I write all reviews. Because I wanted to like this book, I desperately did. I love novels that revolve around a group of female friends. I love novels about the every day aspects of life – the daily mundane stuff and the not-so-fun stuff like when the best person in the book gets cancer and it’s terminal. Everything about The Art of Saying Goodbye told me I would love it. But I didn’t. And here is where I will attempt to pinpoint why.

What it boils down to is the characters. I didn’t connect with any of them in a real way. I even had trouble for the first half of the book telling them each apart! Which is not a good thing. Once I figured out each of their personalities and began to separate each one from the rest, I realized that I didn’t really like them as people. They each seemed so selfish to me, in different ways and to different degrees, but they were each selfish for sure. And not selfish in the endearing, flawed character that you love anyway kind of way. They were just plain not supportive of their friend who was going through the most difficult thing a person can imagine. I didn’t understand how they (with the exception of one of them, Andrea) could call themselves Paisley’s good friends.

The other thing I wasn’t a huge fan of is that I felt that the summary provided by the publisher isn’t quite accurate. To me, it didn’t feel like any of these women made any significant transformative changes in their thinking or behaviors based on Paisley’s cancer. Sure, there were small changes, but certainly nothing earth-shattering. I guess I was just expecting more bombshells dropped or huge life events to take place and the whole novel felt sort of anti-climactic. I’m not sure how else to explain it.

I did not hate this book. I finished it, which is certainly telling – I enjoyed it enough to keep reading despite my misgivings. However, I have read many other books that revolve around a group of women and their friendships that I enjoyed quite a bit more than this one. So while it’s not the worst book ever, The Art of Saying Goodbye was not one I much enjoyed.

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14 thoughts on “The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache

  1. I was struck by the sick woman and her response to her illness. Some had the art of saying good bye, as I recall, but many didn’t. I wonder if the title really refers to Paisley and her way of saying goodbye to her friends and family.

    • I am with you on Paisley, I thought she was the most complex and interesting of them all. I felt initially like the art of saying goodbye was referring to the other women saying goodbye to Paisley, but I suppose it could be what you said as well.

  2. I’m sorry that you didn’t enjoy it though it sounds like you had very good reasons not to. Thank you so much for an honest review. I always try to be honest and sometimes it is so hard! I almost cried the first time I had to write a bad review.

    • It is hard! I don’t want to hurt any feelings but my opinion is just that – an opinion. Anyone else might react to this novel in a completely different way. But unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

  3. I don’t think I like the sound of this! I can’t imagine that a group of real friends would fail to be moved and humbled by Paisley’s illness, and that makes me sad. I don’t like selfish and unsupportive characters in books like this, and it sort of reminds me a little of the family in The Song Remains the Same. Frankly, it sounds like this book would have pissed me off. Thanks for the very honest and thoughtful review. I know it can be hard to write honestly when you so want to love a book, but it just doesn’t happen.

    • The book just wasn’t what I was expecting and I think that’s what it comes down to. I was thinking I would love these women and I could not do that, hence my disappointment with the novel.

  4. I have never lost a close friend to cancer, but I had a close friend lose her husband in a car crash. Unfortunately, he didn’t die right away physically, but was brain dead, and this thing went on and on and on. Many of her friends turned tail and left. They just couldn’t handle the despair, the sadness, the reminder of their own mortality. So I think this reaction is realistic, but sure not likable. It is hard to not like a book about cancer, but is a tough subject and you have to get it right.

    • I think it’s probably a realistic reaction too, now that you mention that. It’s sad but most people can’t handle the constant despair and hopelessness that a terminal illness brings. Unfortunately the fact that it might have been realistic didn’t help me to enjoy the book any more.

  5. Ooh I hate when the publisher’s summary isn’t quite accurate. I always feel bad because I don’t know if it’s the author who writes it or not (I have been thinking no) but that has affected my feel for the book in the past!

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