BookBrowse Reviews Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Hello Goodbye

A Novel

by Emily Chenoweth

Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth X
Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2009, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2011, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A luminous novel that ponders the agonizing question, how do you grieve the loss of someone who is still alive?

When illness strikes, people place their faith in curious things; in Hello Goodbye, Elliott Hansen places his in the exclusive Presidential - a historic resort in the White Mountains. Reeling from the diagnosis of his wife Helen's inoperable brain tumor, Elliott's once simple life has become utterly complicated.

It was ironic, he thought, the way a situation that exposed once and for all the essential powerlessness of the human animal in the face of fortune also revealed the importance of good conduct within that powerlessness. There was nothing you could do and yet you could not do nothing.

Spurred to action by Helen's impending death, Elliott books a week long stay for family and friends under the guise of an anniversary celebration. In sole possession of the fact that Helen's prognosis is terminal, Elliott holds out hope that the decadence and beauty of the Presidential might somehow compensate for the staggering news he must deliver.

With some bitterness and trepidation, Abby joins her middle-aged parents on this excursion into the White Mountains. Because she doesn't know the severity of her mother's illness, Abby still has the luxury of wallowing in her own anger and self pity. "No one ever said: 'Someday you'll have to babysit your own mother.'" Both loving and churlish at times, Abby is torn by her deep affection for her mother and the inconvenience and injustice of Helen's illness. Now forced to contemplate this lesser version of her once vibrant mother, Abby struggles to maintain her independence while grappling with this new reversal of roles.

The arrival of Helen and Elliott's lifelong friend illuminate the true tragedy of this novel. Though the Hansen friends are full of life, the deterioration of their dear Helen makes this celebration ever more poignant. Ms. Chenoweth's canny use of characters allows us a glimpse of better days gone by and an understanding of the magnitude of what they all stand to lose. Through their laughter and tears, Hello Goodbye poses the agonizing question of how to grieve the loss of a friend who is still alive.

As friends and family fuss around her, Helen certainly must know all is not well. Physically and emotionally exhausted, Helen craves the sweetness of sleep. "When she's sleeping, she's not half blind or clumsy or forgetful. She's simply herself... The waking is what's hard. That had been the worst part: to learn the truth each day all over again." Still innocent of her prognosis, Helen puts her best foot forward. With good nature, she accepts the attentions of her adoring friends, eternally safe in the comfort of the familiar.

Hello Goodbye has a lot going on for a one week stay. Themes of love, relationship and loss abound, but are sometimes obscured by the commotion of shifting plots and story lines. Despite such fluctuations, Emily Chenoweth's novel holds unexpected and pleasant surprises. Her witty and engaging characters easily balance out the darker issues of mortality and the transience of life. A quick read, one laments the lack of time to get to know this group more intimately, but perhaps that is precisely the point of Hello Goodbye. As the last of his guests glide down the drive of the Presidential, Elliott reflects on an uncertain future but a choice well made. "Maybe, he thought, it was enough for now just to feel blessedly alive."

Reviewed by Megan Shaffer

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2009, and has been updated for the July 2011 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: What Storm, What Thunder
    What Storm, What Thunder
    by Myriam J. A. Chancy
    What Storm, What Thunder illuminates life in Haiti during and after the massive earthquake on ...
  • Book Jacket: Noor
    Noor
    by Nnedi Okorafor
    Noor's heroine goes by the moniker AO. Though officially this stands for her given name, Anwuli ...
  • Book Jacket: Five Tuesdays in Winter
    Five Tuesdays in Winter
    by Lily King
    Lily King's two recent novels Euphoria and Writers & Lovers could hardly be more different: one has ...
  • Book Jacket: Never
    Never
    by Ken Follett
    Ken Follett's thriller Never outlines a chillingly possible path to World War III. Fifty-year-old ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
My Broken Language
by Quiara Alegría Hudes
A Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright tells her lyrical coming of age story in a sprawling Puerto Rican family.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Honor
    by Thrity Umrigar

    Bestselling author Thrity Umrigar tells the moving story of two Indian women and the courage they inspire in each other.

  • Book Jacket

    The Paris Bookseller
    by Kerri Maher

    How a humble bookseller fought incredible odds to bring one of the 20th century's most important books to the world.

Who Said...

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A P O B Y Houses

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.