Hello Goodbye: A Novel

You could call Emily Chenoweth’s Hello Goodbye a coming-of-age book. Abby, a young woman vacationing with her parents before her sophomore year in college, sheds her childhood innocence and stumbles into adulthood in this gentle, almost delicate story. But it’s also more than that. Seductive and sad as a late-summer breeze, this debut novel is an exploration of aging, of enduring friendships, of the complicated relationships between parent and child, and of love, old and new. Abby’s mother, Helen, is dying of cancer; doctors have given her only nine months to live, though neither Helen nor Abby have been told. Abby’s father, Elliott, has gathered old friends at what he keeps referring to, much to Abby’s irritation, as “the best hotel in New Hampshire” to celebrate the couple’s 20th anniversary. “Elliott understood that in the story of his and Helen’s marriage, the end had already been written. But the path to that conclusion was still left to forge — how the days and weeks would go, and what solace and joy would be found in them, were in many ways up to him,” Chenoweth writes. “So he had summoned their friends to this place where they would eat and drink and reminisce, and when they left, they would say, for the last time, goodbye.” But Helen’s goodbye provides the backdrop for Abby’s arrival. “It was as if the cancer had finally proved that she and her mother were not two complementary sides of the same person,” Chenoweth muses. As Abby becomes her own woman, we remember our uncertain first steps into adulthood. And as Helen fades and Elliott considers the future, we contemplate the inevitability of our own.