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Good-bye and Amen Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Gutcheon concludes the Moss family saga that began with Leeway Cottage in a disappointing fashion. Laurus and Sydney Brant Moss have died, and it's up to their three children, Eleanor, Monica and Jimmy, to divide up the estate. Naturally, the process exposes old frictions and creates new ones while sparking reminiscences of their lives, notably concerning their difficult relationships with their prickly mother, who hid venom beneath a veneer of social graciousness. The narration is many-voiced; the siblings, their spouses and children, their friends and neighbors, and even the dead contribute to the storytelling. While the points-of-view of the living are maddeningly self-involved, the dead really seem to understand what's going on. The effect is both tragic and mildly amusing, but gradually, it becomes difficult to feel for the characters. Though the novel is beautifully written, the narrative becomes frustrating and claustrophobic repetitive as it wears on. (Aug.)
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“Gutcheon’s gift is for pure storytelling. . . . Her characters and settngs are alive, sparkling with deft touches of period detail; her narrative voice is knowing and wry, exasperated and affectionate.” (New York Newsday)
“Good-Bye and Amen is a tour de force of structure and voice. Gutcheon had me at the first sentence and I didn’t put the book down until I had finished it. Marvelous and memorable.” (Karen Joy Fowler, author of Wit’s End and The Jane Austen Book Club)
“[A]n undeniably rich, no-holds-barred portrait of an American family. Strongly recommended.” (Library Journal on GOOD-BYE AND AMEN)
“[B]eautifully written.” (Publishers Weekly on GOOD-BYE AND AMEN)
“[C]ompellingly drawn…A true New England novel, charming but a bit chilly.” (Kirkus Reviews on GOOD-BYE AND AMEN)
“[C]ompelling…Beautifully written and told from varying points of view, this sweeping saga will strike a chord with anyone who loves to read about family. Four stars.” (Romantic Times on GOOD-BYE AND AMEN)
“Editor’s Choice.” (Denver Post on GOOD-BYE AND AMEN)
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Top Customer Reviews
At first I didn't like the writing style of presenting short snippets of the story from each character's point of view, but as I gradually grew accustomed to it, I could see how it gave a unique voice to the family and friends who "told" the story.
When at first it seemed as though Jimmy, the youngest, who immediately laid claim to the baby grand piano, was selfish and "entitled," by the end of the book there was another version of Jimmy. A more generous one.
And Monica, the middle "child," who appeared totally focused on herself, gradually showed the reader that there was much more to her story. Married to a charismatic minister (Norman Faithful) who left a law practice to lead congregations throughout the country while his wife tagged along as if she were an afterthought, Monica obviously suffered a great unfulfilled need first created by her demanding and punitive mother during those childhood years.
Eleanor Moss Applegate seemed oblivious to the needs of the others at times, but actually she was the one who took charge when none of the others were around to do that. And her husband Bobby was well-liked and occasionally the voice of reason.
As I read this sequel to Leeway Cottage: A Novel (P.S.), I began to recall parts of that book and enjoyed seeing how the family came together for each other in small ways, even when their rivalries seemed to dominate at times.
At the end of Good-bye and Amen: A Novel, I felt a sense of closure and almost as if I were with the characters in the beloved cottage, sifting through the belongings and redefining their relationships to one another. Four stars.
In all her books, the storyline is something that could happen to any one of us.
Characters are faced with challenges and the reader follows a page-turning story in which the hallmark of literature--character growth--is always present. If not familiar with Gutcheon's works, may I recommend "Saying Grace," "Domestic Pleasures," and "Missing."
There are also religious ideas to explore. It makes a good discussion novel. I loved it and will read the book that precedes it.
I suggest borrowing it from your local library if you feel the need to read it. Most of Beth's books I really have enjoyed but every so often she lets me down and this is definitely one of those times.