Good-Bye and Amen

Good-Bye and Amen

4.2 4
by Beth Gutcheon, Joyce Bean
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In a summer cottage on the coast of Maine, an unlikely love was nurtured, a marriage endured, and a family survived. Now it is time for the children of that marriage to make peace with the wounds and the treasures left to them. And to sort out which is which.

Beth Gutcheon's critically acclaimed family saga, Leeway Cottage, was a major achievement: a vivid

See more details below

Overview

In a summer cottage on the coast of Maine, an unlikely love was nurtured, a marriage endured, and a family survived. Now it is time for the children of that marriage to make peace with the wounds and the treasures left to them. And to sort out which is which.

Beth Gutcheon's critically acclaimed family saga, Leeway Cottage, was a major achievement: a vivid and moving tale of war and marriage and their consequences that enchanted readers. Good-bye and Amen is the next chapter for the family of Leeway Cottage, the story of what happens when those most powerful people in any family drama, the parents, have left the stage.

The complicated marriage of the gifted Danish pianist Laurus Moss to the provincial American child of privilege Sydney Brant was a mystery to many who knew them, including their three children. Now, Eleanor, Monica, and Jimmy Moss have to decide how to divide or share what Laurus and Sydney have left them without losing one another.

Secure and cheerful Eleanor, the oldest, wants little for herself but much for her children. Monica, the least-loved middle child, brings her youthful scars to the table, as well as the baggage of a difficult marriage to the charismatic Norman, who left a brilliant legal career, though not his ambition, to become an Episcopal priest. Youngest and best-loved Jimmy, who made a train wreck of his young adulthood, has returned after a long period of alienation from the family surprisingly intact, but extremely hard for his sisters to read.

Having lived through childhoods both materially blessed and emotionally difficult, with a father who could seem uninvolved and a mother who loved a good family game of "let's you and him fight," the Mosses have formed strong adult bonds that none of them wants to damage. But it's difficult to divide a beloved summer house three ways and keep it too. They all know what's at stake—in a world of atomized families, a house like Leeway Cottage can be the glue that keeps generations of cousins and grandchildren deeply connected to one another. But knowing it's important doesn't make it easy.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Sydney and Laurus Moss, whose lives were the subject of Gutcheon's Leeway Cottage, have passed away. When their three adult children gather at their summer home in Dundee, ME, to divide up their parents' possessions, they feel determined not to fight over tea cozies. That they are not actually able to avoid old resentments is no surprise. Fortunately, laughter and new realizations are also afoot. Readers get many viewpoints on the family and its history because more than 50 characters (given their own index in an afterword) offer their first-person input. Spouses, children, stepchildren, and friends of the family are given the chance to speak. This unique, collagelike technique takes some getting used to, but the result is an undeniably rich, no-holds-barred portrait of an American family. Strongly recommended for fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/08.]
—Keddy Ann Outlaw

Kirkus Reviews
In her eighth novel Gutcheon returns to the Moss family, protagonists of Leeway Cottage (2005), to explore angst and gentility within a fading New England clan. Once again, she begins with the three Moss siblings sorting through their parents' belongings after Laurus and Sydney Moss have died together in their Maine summer home. Eldest daughter Eleanor lives in Boston with her husband, easygoing investment banker Bobby, and does a lot of volunteer work. Middle sibling Monica is married to Norman, a self-important minister from a questionable Midwestern background who's disliked by the rest of the family. Their younger brother Jimmy, for years a drugged-out party animal, has found success as a computer-game creator and is happily married to California girl Janice. Short segments of narration telling the family's story are delivered by a host of characters, so many that readers will frequently find themselves referring to the biographical notes section in the back. The one narrator missing from those notes is Sydney Moss's long-deceased stepfather, who appears in italics and ruminates, unnecessarily, on the afterlife. The plot evolves fitfully. The division of property and the siblings' subsequent attempt to spend a last summer in Maine together bring to the surface old misunderstandings and disappointments. Who gets to use the boat when? Who gets the front bedroom? Every small issue carries enormous weight, representing lingering resentments unspoken by the siblings and their extended families. Gradually the novel focuses on Monica and Norman's troubled marriage. Since he quit his law practice for the ministry and throughout his rocky career, Monica has loyally stood by him.Unsurprisingly, he turns out to be a cad, or at least deeply troubled. In the end, Jimmy's brotherly act of generosity is Monica's salvation. Unfortunately, she comes across as an easy victim and a snob, while selfish Norman's moral and spiritual confusion is compellingly drawn. A true New England novel, charming but a bit chilly. Agent: Wendy Weil/Wendy Weil Agency
Karen Joy Fowler
“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.”
From the Publisher
"Narrator Joyce Bean displays an impressive range of voices and accents.... Author and narrator combine to create a thoroughly enjoyable audiobook." —AudioFile
Denver Post on GOOD-BYE AND AMEN
“Editor’s Choice.”
Romantic Times 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
“[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.”
New York Newsday
“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.”
Denver Post
“Editor’s Choice.”

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400159819
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
11/24/2008
Edition description:
MP3 - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Good-bye and Amen

Chapter One

The Lottery

The trouble started when Jimmy took the piano.

Not their famous father's concert Steinway; that was too valuable to keep and was, anyway, nine feet long. Jimmy took the piano from the living room, the baby grand that had belonged to their Danish aunt Nina, the Re-sis-tance hero. Everyone knew Monica wanted that piano more than anything, and certainly more than Jimmy did.

Well, we all knew it. We assume Jimmy knew.

The middle-aged orphans' lottery. Three grown siblings come together at the scene of their shared childhood, which they experienced the same and totally differently in about equal parts, to divide up the contents of the house they grew up in. Was there ever a scene more fraught with possibility for bloodless injuries, sepsis in wounds no sane person wants to reopen? They'd have been better off burning the house down. But they hadn't. So few do.

Which we think is just as well. Birth is usually instructive. Death always. But as one of the minor passages, this one holds much interest. Deciding within a family how to divide or share what the dead leave behind is a test that tells.

In this family, Eleanor needs neither money nor things, but she likes to win, at least sometimes. And as eldest, feels entitled. Monica needs everything, and as middle and least-loved child, has her issues. And Jimmy as the youn-gest and well-known favorite feels . . .well, it's often impossible to know what Jimmy feels. He's a stage-five thinker, to the surprise of a good many of us. We'd love to know if this came from hisBuddhist period, or if it was all those psychedelic drugs.

Eleanor Moss Applegate We were in the dining room of the house in Connecticut. We grew up there, but none of us had lived there full-time since we were fifteen, forty years ago in my case. Jimmy did, here and there, whenever he was kicked out of school, but not for de-cades. Of course we visited our parents there, but Mother was pretty territorial. She didn't like people prowling, especially her grandchildren, so now that we had the run of the house, what was there came as a revelation. All our mother's stuff from her childhood was up in the attic, and a lot from generations before that. Mother and Papa had died together last Labor Day weekend. That was a bad shock, of course, but not the only one.

Andrew Carnegie said that if you die rich, you die disgraced. Well, Mother will be safe with Andrew, if they meet in heaven. She'd been living beyond her means for years. Way beyond.

Bobby Applegate One of the first things my future mother-in-law told me when we met was that her grandmother used to cross the street to avoid shaking hands with a man who was known to be Spending Principal. Those robber barons, who made their money before the income tax, you'd have thought their shit didn't smell. Oh, sorry.

Anyway, I was stunned at how little would be left, after Uncle Sam took his whack. Sydney Brant Moss, the Princess of Cleveland, Ohio, had not been one you could talk to about estate planning. The laws of mortality had been suspended in her case. That was her position and she stuck to it.

Eleanor Applegate Poor Mother. Being Lady Bountiful was her whole identity. After I got over the surprise, it made sense to me.

Bobby Applegate She did give a lot away, and got a lot of social mileage out of doing it. She also paid no attention at all to what her money guys were doing, even when she still had her marbles. Après elle, le déluge.

Sydney and Laurus Moss, late parents of this tribe, died exactly the way they wanted to, by the way. Together. In old age, on the last night of their last summer in a place they loved. A faulty heater was involved, but so was will. It was hard on the children, though, I admit that.

Sydney's mind had begun departing in wisps and then chunks years earlier, leaving her soul, that bright nightgown, to cope alone. This made her a much simpler being than she had been for most of her life. More like us. Laurus had had strokes and knew there would be more. He dreaded what would have come next for them: he unable to look after them both, and she long since unable to do much of anything except be grateful. (Not that that should be underestimated as a contribution to the common weal.)

Laurus appeared here almost immediately, and moved on just as quickly. Sydney, so far, is still elsewhere.

Eleanor Applegate I'd been the one to do most of the cleanout of the house, and to deal with the officer at the bank and the lawyer who'd drawn up our parents' wills. They're both about a thousand years old and we think the lawyer has Alzheimer's. Monica had her hands full at home, and Jimmy lives in California . . .well, it fell to me.

The bank had all the stuff in the house appraised, for estate taxes, and I'd hired an auction woman to come in after us and sell what we didn't want. My daughter Nora had dreams of selling it all herself on eBay but we said no. I can't say she took it well. She graduates from college next month and hasn't a clue what comes next, and she saw this as about a year's employment. And I sympathize. I was already married when I graduated from college, but I know what that panic felt like.

Good-bye and Amen. Copyright © by Beth Gutcheon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Read More

What People are saying about this

Karen Joy Fowler
“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.”
From the Publisher
"Narrator Joyce Bean displays an impressive range of voices and accents.... Author and narrator combine to create a thoroughly enjoyable audiobook." —-AudioFile

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >