“Bache writes straight from the heart, peopling her pages with characters you will never forget.” —Lee Smith, author of Fair and Tender Ladies
“Ellyn Bache draws her characters from the inside.” —Baltimore Sun
Critically acclaimed author Ellyn Bache captivates with The Art of Saying Goodbye, a beautiful and poignant story of four suburban women who gain new insights and appreciations of their own lives when a much-loved neighbor falls gravely ill. In the tradition of Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane and Marisa de los Santos’s Belong to Me, Bache’s The Art of Saying Goodbye is a beautiful and touching story of friendship, love, commitment, and self-discovery that will enthrall readers of Jodi Picault and Jill Barnett.
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Read an Excerpt
The Art of Saying GoodbyeA Novel
By Ellyn Bache
William Morrow PaperbacksCopyright © 2011 Ellyn Bache
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOn this warm October night, if you turned into Brightwood
Trace beside the handsome brick entryway, and followed the
graceful curve of Brightwood Circle past the three cul-de-sacs
that branch off like fingers, you'd notice even through
the gathering fog that a white bow with long streamers, one
that might look good atop a large wedding present, has been
secured to a tree in front of every house. Every house. This is
not because of hostages in some foreign country or a deeply
felt political cause. The residents put them up to support one
of their own. Paisley Lamm lives at the top of Lindenwood
Court, the highest point in the development, and has to pass
this way on every trip in or out.
No one is sure who tied the first ribbon to a tree this
afternoon. Most people think it was Andrea Chess,
Paisley's longtime friend, who knows her better than anyone in
Brightwood Trace except Paisley's husband, Mason. Andrea
is the one with the mushroom-colored hair falling in a bowl
around her face, and those odd gray-green eyes that seem
somehow colorless, like slightly dirty water. You wouldn't
imagine Andrea as Paisley's best friend, but she is. For twelve
years they've shared secrets, seen each other through every
crisis, given each other space. In Andrea's view, this has led
to a special, dignified friendship few women ever enjoy.
Andrea loves Paisley like a sister.
Most of the neighbors are much more ambivalent. Paisley
is pleasant to everyone, so affable and good natured the
women find it hard to stay jealous even after their husbands
stare longingly at her at a party and it ruins their night. They
burn hot for a day or two, incensed that a woman of forty
six should look so good. It's unnatural. Then on Monday
or Tuesday they run into Paisley at the supermarket or in
the gym, where she offers a tomboyish wave and spills
benevolence onto them from her snappy blue eyes. "Hey," she
trills, and "Hey," they call back, and at that moment their
ill will vanishes like smoke. There's something irresistible
about Paisley. There's something that makes her seem the
gracious hostess even in the grocery store. The next time
Paisley issues an invitation for coffee or wine, the neighbor
will say, yes, of course, and forget until it's too late the way
her husband looked at Paisley that time and probably will
Of course, Iona Feld doesn't feel this way. At sixty, Iona
is practically old enough to be Paisley's mothermaybe not
quiteand hasn't been much interested in men since her
husband died. The only man in her life now is her grown
stepson, who is trouble enough. Iona isn't jealous of Paisley,
and she knows too much to be an ardent admirer, but she
enjoys her all the same. At Paisley and Mason's many social
gatherings, she watches with wry amusement the way Paisley
works a room. The more aware Paisley is of men eyeing her,
the more conscientious she is about distributing her charms
with judicious fairness, a little for John, a little for Eddie,
some for the women, too. It's almost an art form. Iona is sure
Paisley's parents impressed on her that it was important to be
nice to everyone. She sees Paisley teaching this same lesson to
her two daughters. The younger girl, Melody, isn't much
interested yet, but Brynne, at fourteen, already exhibits more
social savvy than some women ever acquire.
This morning, Iona fought alarm, irritation, and an actual
lump in her throat while driving to A. C. Moore to buy the
biggest white bow she could find. Afterward, she didn't stop
at the Quick-Mart to get the coffee she can barely live without
or pick up the dry cleaning that has been sitting there for
a week. She was furious at being sucked into this ordinary,
unexotic tragedy. She's had her own tragedy. She doesn't
need this. At home she tied the ribbon around the enormous
willow oak in her front yard, a tree she has always despised,
while its rough gray bark practically glowered disapproval at
having to wear a shiny white bow. In a few weeks the tree
will retaliate by shedding thousands of tiny pointed leaves
onto Iona's lawn, impossible to rake up. Much as she likes
yard work and believes it keeps her limber, she'll have to call
the lawn ser vice. It isn't the expense she begrudges; it is the
admission of defeat.
By nightfall when the fog begins to gather, Iona is so
worked up that she'd like nothing better than to take one of
her long treks through the undeveloped field behind Lindenwood
Court, her usual way of burning off energy. But it's
dark, and the ground back there is too uneven to negotiate
without a flashlight. She doesn't want to walk on the street.
Just her luck, she'd run into some gossipy neighbor who'd
whisper about Paisley for twenty minutes. She goes into her
house instead, picks up the newspaper, and fumes.
Up on Lindenwood Court, across the cul-de-sac from
Paisley's house, Ginger Logan stands rigid at her bedroom
window, watching her twelve-year-old daughter, Rachel,
slip quietly out into the front yard. It's all she can do not
to follow Rachel outside. They had their family discussion
about Paisley's situation at dinner. Theoretically, there's
nothing more to say. Ginger wishes Paisley well, of course;
they've been across-the-cul-de-sac neighbors for more than
nine years. But mostly, she's concerned about her children.
Well, not so much about Max who at fifteen wants only to
drive. She worries more about her daughter. Twelve is such
an impressionable age. Lately Rachel has become thoughtful
and quiet, no longer a jabbering child. Ginger wants to act
before it's too late. Do something. Make sure her daughter is
not scarred by this, whatever happens.
It's so misty out in the yard that Ginger can just barely
make out the way Rachel touches the ribbon tied around
their oak tree and then turns to stare at the nearly invisible
Lamm house across the street. The Lamms and the Logans
are neighbors but not exactly friends. Paisley's daughter,
Brynne, is two years older than Rachel, a barrier thicker than
this fog. For as long as anyone can remember, all Rachel has
wanted to do is be Brynne. Tonight she's probably thinking
that if this terrible thing is happening to Brynnewell, to
her motherthen it could happen to anyone.
Ginger watches as Rachel hugs herself against air fluffy as
wisps of cotton, soft but creepy. She watches as Rachel turns
her attention to the indecipherable sky. Until she donned her
mask of silence, Rachel often gushed dramatically that, on
an ordinary, cloudless night, the bowl of sky above Lindenwood
Court revealed more stars than anywhere else in the
neighborhood. Some of the lights moved and even blinked,
because Lindenwood Court was in the middle of the landing
pattern for the airport down in the city. It was hard to tell
the difference between planes earthbound for landing and
fixed points of light that stayed forever in the sky. "Imagine!"
Rachel would say. There was something mysterious
about this, and thrilling.
But tonight, Ginger doubts her daughter believes in a
benevolence that allows stars and planes to share the heavens
so comfortably. She doubts she believes in anything, beyond
this claustrophobic fog.
She waits until she hears Rachel come into the house and
go up to her room. Then she heads down the hall to comfort
her. But there is such silence behind Rachel's door, it's as if
Rachel is hardly breathing. As if she's thinking with all her
might, Don't come in. Don't come in. Almost a prayer.
Ginger moves away.
It's only a little after nine, but all of Brightwood Trace is
home now, too distraught for meetings or errands or visits
with friends. They are all inside, sheltering themselves,
cocooning into postures of comfort that don't actually help.
Andrea Chess sits on the lip of the garden tub in her master
bathroom, hiding from her husband and daughter, clenching
and unclenching her fists. Iona Feld reads and rereads the
front page of her paper, not taking it in. Ginger, who hasn't
gone to church for years, phones a friend who belongs to a
prayer circle and asks her to add Paisley's name to the list.
In the third house on Dogwood Terrace, Julianne Havelock
paces back and forth in her kitchen for such a long time
that her seventeen-year-old son, Tobythe only one of her
three sons who still lives at hometurns off the TV and
comes in to ask if she's all right.
"I'm fine. Just upset," she says, though she hasn't been fine
for days. More than anyone, Julianne knows what's going
on. She knew how things would turn out even while Paisley
and Mason were waiting for the definitive word. She knew
from the beginning. And this . . . this foreknowledge . . . is
eerie. She might as well be a palm reader or a gypsy with a
crystal ball. Moving into the front hallway, she squints out
the window toward her maple tree with its bow. She doesn't
see it. She is like everyone else. It is not invisible just because
of the fog.
As they put up the bows today, Julianne thinks, everyone
in Brightwood Trace must have acted by rote. None of them
could possibly have thought about what they were doing.
The situation is, in the most literal sense, unthinkable. They
are in shock. At the beginning of this unknowable journey,
they senseespecially Julianne, Andrea, Ginger, and Iona
that this is happening not just to Paisley, but to them all.
Excerpted from The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache Copyright © 2011 by Ellyn Bache. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a special book of the power of female friendship. It is so deep and moving that it captivates you immediately, and stays with you after you close the book. There are many aspects, many facets to it. Each woman has her own story, yet they come together in surprisingly strong ways. The friendships between these women are credible and full of feeling. One cannot help but enjoy the personalities and bonds of these women. They are likable, well-developed characters. Along with the love and the friendship, there are tears as memories and revelations are revealed. This is indeed what friendship is all about. Ellyn Bache gives us women's fiction as it is supposed to be: warm, meaningful, and well written.
About a group of friends who are losing one to cancer. I wasn't moved or attached to the story or characters.
Short and fast read. Overall good book. Wouldve liked to have had a little more detail on how Paisleys family coped afterwards.
"Odd, how in the afterglow of someone else's life, your own looks so much brighter." This line from Ellyn Bache's new novel The Art of Saying Goodbye (William Morrow, 2011), gives you a sense of the glowing feel you will gather from this artful novel. In the novel, golden girl Paisley suddenly learns she has a late stage cancer. It is unthinkable, and throughout the course of the novel, we see the women who know Paisley re-examining their own lives, revealing secrets and shames, and finding new footing in this redefined world. Instead of a book of darkness and mourning, the author has created a book that is at once real and luminescent, where the characters look beyond sadness to a fuller view of their interlinked worlds. Bache (whose short story collection The Value of Kindness won the Willa Cather Fiction Prize) has built this novel with a series of chapters that each feel like a perfect little short story all their own. Her writing craft shines, and I found myself eager to pick up the book again and again, feeling that each chapter was a gift I gave to myself to savor. Give this book to yourself and others, and enjoy! Highly recommended.
Paisley Lamm's life will forever have a lingering legacy in the lives of the four women that lived on her street. Paisley is the proverbial life of any party, the perfect hostess, the beautiful wife that any man would love to have for his own and the friend who has the perfect thing to say or do to make your day so much more brighter simply by her presence in it. Now the only lingering image is the white ribbons tied from every tree in the neighborhood. A reminder to Paisley each day she passes through the neighborhood that she is not alone. Paisley has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is dying. In her final days, she will touch each of the women in a unique and lasting way as they each find a way to say goodbye to her and she does for them. For Julianne, the nurse practitioner, whose gift of prophecy was the first to diagnose something was wrong with Paisley's liver. Now forever stuck with the guilt of not finding a way to make her better, she struggles with the gift she has and who she can share this with. Andrea, is Paisley's closest friend. She is the one that will spend every single day with her and make sure that no matter what, she will not be alone. They have shared more secrets between them than anyone will ever know and have kept those between themselves, the way a true friend does. Ginger, the spa salesperson that is now running the business that her father-in-law has left to them, can't seem to find enough thank you's to offer Paisley for providing a way to work and find herself and give her husband back his hopes and dreams. Iona, the oldest of all of them and a widow who never remarried is the silent rock that holds them all together, dispensing wisdom and advice, as bluntly as an elderly lady can. She struggles with finding a sense of self that all along has been right in front of her. In the latest novel The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache, the reader is joining an intimate circle of friends who have three months to share in the final moments of Paisley's life. They will be forever changed by not only her life but in the grace she continues to show even in her illness. You will be lost in feeling such a closeness that most women crave in their lives and in the friendship that never dies even when they are no longer with us. I received The Art of Saying Goodbye compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review, and even though the storyline is sad, it's the love and warm that come from the many years these women have spent together, raising their families, and sharing stories, that makes you feel like you know every single one of them. This one rates a 5 out of 5 stars and shows you what real love and friendship looks like.
The book is about five women - Iona, Julianne, Andrea, Ginger, and their rock, Paisley. On the surface, all they had in common as living in the same neighborhood, Brightwood Trace. Paisley, "was the thread that wove their tapestry together". But what happens when that thread weakens and breaks? It is set during the last days of Paisley's life, flashbacks of their time with her. The good and the bad. Each of the women learn how to cope with their own issues, their families, their goals, their lives so far. All of them reflect at how Paisley has touched their lives and now, it was their turn to give back to her before she finally says goodbye. I really like how the women do have distinct voices. They are five very different women. To me, a sign of good writing is when I could see the characters materialize in my head as I am reading the words off the page. Like I am hearing their voices as they talk. Even though the book also talks about the other women, it still revolves around Paisley. Each chapter dedicates itself to one of the women, talking about her present life and/or past experiences with her. But when it comes to the chapters where she is the one talking, the point of view shifts to first person, whereas everything else was told in third person. I found that very interesting. It felt like she was telling her little stories while watching the days go by, just waiting. waiting for her time. And I found that very touching. The book tries to be "not sad". It celebrates Paisley's life and how she touched other people. But I must admit, I shed a few tears along the way. I know the pain of losing someone and in a way, I took from that personal experience and I understood the emotions going on on the page. It imparts a lot of life lessons, telling the reader to be strong always and make the most out of life. Recommendation: It is a perfect book club selection. Especially if you are composed of strong individuals, strong women. Even if it does tackle the topic of death, it made me feel good.