Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The novel is told from three different perspectives: Abby's,
Elliott's, and Helen's. Whom do you see as the central character? Which is
Although death is very much a large part of Hello Goodbye, the
book doesn't feel depressing. Why do you think that's the case? What
elements does Chenoweth include in her story that prevent it from being too
sad of a read?
How does the setting of the hotel and its grounds affect the plot and
characters? Why do you think Chenoweth chose this particular location? How
does she use nature symbolically?
For Abby, the week in which Hello Goodbye takes place serves as
a kind of coming-of-age. How does she change throughout the novel? How do
you think she'll be different when she leaves New Hampshire?
Abby encounters two very different young men in her stay; what does
she find appealing about them, and who do you think she would ultimately fit
best with? Do you think these relationships could exist outside of the
confines of the hotel?
Every character in this novel deals with grief differently; some
express denial, others act out in surprising ways. Which reactions do you
identify with most? How have you dealt with grief in your own life?
Chenoweth writes that Elliott had "read somewhere that people who lost
everything in a fire or flood often felt a great and terrible relief. Waking
in strange beds, and clothes they'd borrowed, they experienced a peace that
was almost holy." Can you understand this sentiment? How does loss sometimes
How does Helen process what is happening to her? How have her
relationships to her husband, daughter, and friends changed? How much do you
think she knows about her fate?
Sylvie's character is that of the outsider. How does her presenceand
actionschange the atmosphere of the week? Do you find her to be
sympathetic? What are her intentions?
What repercussions does Elliott's decision to keep secret the
severity of Helen's illness have? Do you think he made the right decision?
What would you have done in his situation?
Abby behaves uncharacteristically with Dom and then Vic towards the
end of the novel. Compare these two interactions and discuss her thoughts
going into them.
Helen's illness has changed her significantly, both physically and
mentally. What do you think she was like before she became ill?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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