Never Wave Goodbye

Never Wave Goodbye

by Doug Magee


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An innocent rite of passage turns into a nightmare for four couples, exposing their secrets and risking the lives of their children.

After passing the bittersweet parental milestone of putting her daughter, Sarah on the bus to sleep-away camp for the first time, Lena Trainor plans to spend the next two weeks fixing all the problems in her marriage. But when a second bus arrives to pick up Sarah for camp, no one seems to know anything about the first bus or its driver.

Sarah and three other children have been kidnapped, and within hours of the crime the parents receive an email demanding $1,000,000. When the specifics of the delivery terms throw suspicion on the parents of two of the abducted children, some of the parents begin to turn on each other, exposing fault lines in already strained marriages and forging new alliances. While the kidnapped children are living their parents' worst nightmare, the police are trying to sort the lies from the truth in conflicting stories and alibis that seem to be constantly changing.

Deftly weaving the emotional story that pits the parents of the missing campers against the police—and each other—with the fate of the kidnapped children hanging in the balance, Never Wave Goodbye will keep readers holding their breath until the last page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439154014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 05/10/2011
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 8.54(w) x 5.66(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Doug Magee has been a photojournalist, screenplay writer, children’s book author, death penalty activist, film producer and director, war protestor, college football player, amateur musician, and the basis of the Aidan Quinn character in Meryl Streep’s “Music of the Heart.” This is his first novel. He lives in Spanish Harlem with his wife and two teenaged children.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Never Wave Goodbye includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Doug Magee. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When Lena Pyle helps her daughter Sarah onto a bus for summer camp, she is thankful for her daughter’s independent nature—and for the chance to spend two weeks alone with her distant husband. But when a second bus arrives to pick Sarah up, a horrified Lena learns that the first was part of an efficiently orchestrated ransom plot. Sarah and three other neighborhood children have been kidnapped and ferried away to a cabin deep in the Adirondacks.

As the four sets of parents argue with each other and the FBI over the best course of action, the kids are left alone in the wilderness; and in the end, both groups are ultimately fighting for their survival. Author Doug Magee, with the help of an emotionally convincing cast, explores what exactly makes a family—and what can derail one completely.

Questions for Discussion

1. Which family do you think reacted most appropriately to the kidnappings? The Pyles, with their level headed despair? The Walkers, with their business and faith? The Williams, with their tenacity and skepticism? The Rostenkowskis, with their solemnity and self medication? Is there any right way to deal with this sort of tragedy? How would you cope?

2. Discuss the figures of authority throughout the story: Detective Martin, Agent Witherspoon, and the various officers standing guard with the families. What did you make of their mixture of sympathy and commitment to the case?

3. Why was Sarah able to lead the children through the woods? Could she sense her mother’s prayers? What made her so fearless as compared to Linda, Tommy, and Franklin?

4. How did you react to Sheila Walker’s sermon at the church? How do you reconcile hope and faith, especially in the face of such distress?

5. Discuss the book’s epilogue. Did you expect Sarah and Linda would come to be so estranged? What do you think happened to Tommy and Franklin?

6. Should the parents have realized something was off with J.D.? Are they at all responsible, or simply victims?

7. Should David disclose his infidelity? Are Sarah’s abduction and Lena’s pregnancy the things that save David and Lena’s marriage?

8. Chase/J.D. is convinced he’s a flawless actor. Do you think he played his parts well? What do you think of his involvement in the kidnappings?

9. Do you feel any sympathy for Janet or Phil?

10. Did you expect any of the families to be complicit in the ransom plot? How did you react to the knowledge of who was responsible for the abduction?

Enhance Your Bookclub

1. Research a number of real-life kidnappings and compare them to the fictional one in the book. How do they differ? Do the operations seem as efficient (or at least, seemingly organized) as Mr. Everett and Chase’s?

2. The children are left in the woods with almost no way of communicating with the outside world. See if you can go a day without using your cell phone or computer. Do people begin to wonder where you are?

3. Read another novel involving kidnapping (Try Jan Burke’s Kidnapped, or one of the many other suspense novels of abduction). How do they stack up to Never Wave Goodbye? Are they believable? How do the families in those stories react?

4. Practicing the utmost safety, visit your nearest camping grounds and see what it’s like to be in the wilderness for a few days. Be sure to avoid bears and the bodies of hikers.

5. When leaving your loved ones, practice Lena and her grandmother’s rules about not waving someone goodbye. Does this make the farewell more poignant? Do you agree at all that you shouldn’t “shoo someone off”?

A Conversation with Doug Magee

1. What sort of research did you have to do for this book? Is the kidnapping in your book based on or inspired by a true story?

The kidnapping in the book was not inspired by any true story. I simply had a “what if” moment one day and ran with the story from there. I did in a way research the families and their responses years ago when I published a book of interviews with families who had had a loved one murdered (What Murder Leaves Behind: The Victim’s Family, Dodd, Mead). In interviewing a number of families that had experienced these tragedies I saw a wide variety of responses and searches for meaning. The Williams family in my book is similar to a family whose son was the victim of a random shooting. The other characters in Never Wave Goodbye are amalgams of people I interviewed and people I know.

2. The families’ responses to the abductions vary greatly, from the Pyles’ quiet hysteria to the Walkers’ faith and business sense. Is there any ‘right’ way to react to tragedy? How might you react?

There is no “right” way to react to a tragedy just as there is no right way to love someone. I think we really compound people’s pain when we expect them to grieve or heal the way we think we might. I have no idea how I would react to a nightmare such as the abduction of one of my children. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I decided to have the four families have such different reactions.

3. The ransom plot was elaborate, but suffered from a number of hiccups. Would you consider Mr. Everett and Chase’s operation to be professional? Or were they doomed from the start?

Detective Martin at one point says that the kidnappers appeared to be more than some guys sitting around drinking beer and deciding to snatch some kids as a lark. I tried to imagine kidnappers who were not simply interested in money, but who had some psychological needs that they thought could be met by an abduction. I think operating that way made them vulnerable to the many pitfalls their crime entailed. I liked the fact that their elaborate plot was essentially undone by a little girl’s demands of her father.

4. Do you agree with Lena’s grandmother’s superstition that people should never wave goodbye?

I suppose I do, though I’m not superstitious about it. A wave goodbye can be a pretty sad image to leave with someone.

5. One could argue that the children handle the kidnapping more reasonably than the adults. Why do you think they’re able to compose themselves so strongly, especially in the wake of vicious bears and dead abductors?

The parents and the kids were dealing with two related but different sets of problems. For the parents, it was the great uncertainty of what had happened to their children. That kind of unknowing can be the worst possible aspect of a missing child. The kids, however, knew where they were in the sense that they weren’t lost to themselves, and so they were dealing with specific problems such as food, bears, and the path home. I think nine-year-olds, because of their limited life experience, can be somewhat oblivious to dangers around them and thus more optimistic in such stressful situations.

6. David’s affair remains unrevealed by story’s end. Why did you choose to keep it hidden? Do you think his and Lena’s marriage is transformed in some way by the kidnappings and Lena’s pregnancy? Can these sorts of things “shock” a family back into some semblance of togetherness?

Actually I believe families who experience tragedies such as a murder or kidnapping are much more likely to be split apart by the experience. When I was researching my book on victims’ families I think the statistic was that nearly half the couples went through divorce within a year of the tragedy. As far as David’s infidelity is concerned, I think he realized that a confession while Sarah was missing would only compound the deep mistake he made in having the affair in the first place. I definitely think Lena and David’s marriage is transformed for the better by what they went through. I wouldn’t recommend it for couples whose marriage is in trouble, of course, but some extreme situations force us to see the world, ourselves and our loved ones differently, in a better light.

7. What made you include the book’s epilogue?

I felt I had put the families, especially the kids, through quite a ringer and I wanted to see what they might be like ten years later. I was surprised that Linda had absorbed so much of the tragedy personally, but it made sense once I realized that she in a way had to bear the burden of her parents’ crime.

8. The end of the story, with Lena “guiding” Sarah through their memories of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, is an almost magical element to the book, which is otherwise grounded in a realistic world. Do you believe in these sorts of ethereal connections between parents and their children?

I happen to believe that there are powerful and deep connections among all of us, not just parents and children, connections we are not aware of for the most part. I don’t see these as mystical or necessarily extraordinary. Computers and the internet are pale imitations of the ways in which we are knit together. I think both Lena and Sarah tap into this immense power when they each decide in their own way to go beyond the mind, to trust something other than rationality. They are immersed in what can be seen as a deeply irrational moment and instead of trying to think their way out they rely on something in their bones, in their being that eventually works.

9. Are you working on another book? What can you tell us about it?

I am working on another novel. I can’t say anything about it right now, but I think readers of Never Wave Goodbye will be interested. Please stay tuned.

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Never Wave Goodbye 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for summer reading!!! It takes place at the beginning of summer, as four families are preparing to send their kids off to sleep-away camp, and four kids are preparing for their first sleep-away adventure. Never could any of them imagine, however, the terrifying events which will follow! You'll find yourself going through a whole range of emotions as you read this wonderful first novel. You'll be terrified for the kids, and then you'll cheer them on as they solve one problem after another. You'll empathize with the agony of the parents as you try to figure out just exactly who is responsible for what. The one thing you won't be able to do is to put it down until you've finished it! A perfect summer read!!
jennsbookshelves on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lena Trainor is full of emotions as she puts her nine-year-old daughter, Sarah, on a bus to camp for the first time. She¿s nervous and anxious for her daughter, but her mind is also on her relationship with her husband. She¿s so unfocused that she really doesn¿t pay much attention to the camp counselor who picks up Sarah. Until a few minutes later when the real bus shows up.She hurridly begins to call the parents of the other children to be picked up. A total of four children were abducted, including Linda, Sarah¿s good friend; Franklin, the son of a local minister; and Tommy, the son of a local contractor. Within a few hours the parents all receive an email, demanding a $1,000,000 ransom.When the FBI is called in, secrets are revealed, causing conflict within and between the families. No one knows who to trust, they simply want their child back. When the 24-hour mark passes, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their children again.I simply cannot believe this is Magee¿s first novel. He reveals a story that is both captivating and chilling. Losing one¿s child is a parents worst nightmare, but the fact that these parents literally (although unwittingly) handed their children over to their abductors compounds it tremendously. As a parent myself, I couldn¿t help but feel the hurt, guilt, and anguish the parents were feeling. It probably doesn¿t help that my son¿s away at camp now, right? Never Wave Goodbye is not only a tale of suspense, but a study in the human condition, in how well one stands up to such a catastrophic event, seen from not only the parents¿ eyes but the of the children as well.My only complaints were very minor. First, the vehicle used to abduct the children was described several times as being a camp van, but the cover clearly shows a school bus. I know that oftentimes authors don¿t have much say in what their cover looks like, so I don¿t blame the author. The second is the maturity of the children. They are all nine years old, some from pretty affluent families. They seemed be rather naive when it came to technology, such as using a computer, sending email, etc. My oldest son was able to do these things at a fairly early age, well before the age of nine. Again, a very minor complaint, but one I thought I should mention.All issues aside, I do highly recommend this novel. It¿s the perfect thriller for a warm summer weekend¿just don¿t read it while your child is away at camp!
khager on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sarah's going off to camp for the first time and is pretty excited. Her best friend Linda's going too, and it should be a great time. Lena, Sarah's mom, isn't as excited. It's Sarah's first time away from home and she's a little nervous and sad. But the camp counselor picks her up and everything seems great.Until the real camp bus comes about half an hour later.Sarah, Linda and two other kids have been kidnapped.I got this book because it sounded like a Harlan Coben book. And, while definitely enjoyable to read, it's nowhere near Harlan Coben quality. But this is Doug Magee's first book, and I'm definitely willing to give him another try.My problems with the book involve an unrealistic ending (no, I don't think there's a psychic-type link between moms and their kids, although I don't have kids so I could be wrong about this) and the fact that the grownups we spend the most time with (Lena and her husband David and Linda's parents) are fairly unlikable. Lena, in particular, is kind of a bitch, I thought.But these are minor complaints and this book was definitely fun.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a parent, it was always hard when I let my children 'go away' to overnight sleepovers the first few times, let alone weekend tournaments and across the country meets. Doug Magee has come up with a chilling premise for his first novel Never Wave Goodbye.What if you put your child on the van for camp, waved goodbye....and then the real van came.........Four families put their nine and ten year olds on the van for a two week stay at Camp Arno. JD, the personable driver, seems great with the kids. No bells go off with any of the parents. JD delivers the kids not to camp but to his partner Mr. Everett and from there - they disappear - JD is not even privy to where they're headed. A ransom email for one million dollars is delivered to all four sets of parents. Magee teases us, slowly revealing each parent's secrets, flaws and shortcomings through small hints and foreshadowing. Surely none of them could have anything to do with the crime - not their own child? Lena Trainor provides the most frequent point of view for the parents. Out of all the parents, we come to know and empathize with her the most. Her daughter Sarah becomes the 'leader' of the kidnapped children. I was intrigued by these chapters and would have almost liked to see a bit more focus on them. The kidnappers and their point of view was chilling.Much of the focal point is on the interaction between the parents of each child and each other. Magee has captured and portrayed the pain, anguish and feelings of parents put in a situation that seems inconceivable. There were a few inconsistencies that I found a bit jarring. I liked Lena up until page 129 when she argues about one family offering to part of another family's part of the ransom. It seemed out of character with her earlier actions and feelings about getting the children back at any cost. And this one is just a little complaint - I doubt there are many 10 year olds who know how to use Facebook but not how to email. Never Wave Goodbye is full of twists and turns that build tension and will have you suspecting almost everyone, including one of the police, until the end. A strong debut novel and a great page turning read - I look forward to Magees's next novel.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lena Trainor puts her nine year old daughter Sarah on a camp van with some mixed feelings ¿ it is the first time Sarah has been away from home, but Lena is also looking forward to spending some time with her husband David and hoping to fix the cracks in their marriage. When a short time later the real camp van shows up, Lena¿s ambivalence quickly turns to horror as she realizes her daughter has been kidnapped. Also taken in by the kidnapper¿s ruse are three other families whose children were also picked up by the fake camp driver.Debut novelist Doug Magee spins out his story of what follows ¿ the police investigation, the ransom demand, the FBI involvement ¿ along with some glimpses into the parents¿ marriages and psychological states. Early on, the reader is clued in that the kidnapping may not be all that it seems¿and in fact, there is a twist at the end.I wanted to love this book. I thought its premise was great ¿ what worse scenario could a parent imagine than handing over their child to someone who wishes to hold them captive? But, Magee¿s first effort fell flat for me in large part because I never felt like I got inside the characters¿ heads. Magee chose to write his novel from an omniscient point of view ¿ a difficult venture for even the most talented author ¿ and this choice, I believe, was why I felt removed from the characters. I wanted to feel the agony of the parents, the fears of the children, the evil mindset of the perpetrators¿but instead, I felt almost nothing from them. Instead of riveting dialogue and fast paced action, this story is pretty much told to the reader as though it were a news report.Magee¿s background as a screenwriter might explain the narrative flow. I could actually see this novel being made into a movie. I have read a few screenplays in my life, and the book definitely had the feel of a movie (as though the action was being directed by a producer). Perhaps it was this sense of being led through the story rather than living it which made me feel let down.I¿m sorry I won¿t be able to recommend Never Wave Goodbye, although some bloggers have really enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really a must read for anyone who likes a thoughtful mystery. I would have giving it 5 star read but. The part about the kids getting home was sort of left out. But there again I am a dreamer.
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KenCady More than 1 year ago
Never Wave Goodbye is an excellent read although somewhat predictable. The pleasure is in the characters and their emotions- well drawn by the author. I kept to every page, resisting the urge to skip to the end to see whodunit. It may make some parents skittish to read of the trauma other parents go through, but I recommend making the effort. Just one question for the author-Why did the Walker father say that he should have thought of that before?
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Feeling sad but proud that her nine years old daughter Sarah is going to spend two weeks at sleep away camp with her best friend Linda, the distraught mom pays little attention to the vehicle or driver picking up her child. Lena waves goodbye to Sarah and goes inside their home pondering how to get her marriage to David back on track. Soon a second van arrives to pick up Sarah. By the time the confusion is cleared up, Sarah, Linda and two boys Tommy and Franklin are the victims of a kidnapping. The FBI leads the investigation, but has little to go on. The kidnappers demand one million. In the woods, one abductor Mr. Everett is with the four frightened kids until he has an accident after a chance encounter with a hiker. The kids are alone struggling to survive. Sarah becomes the de facto leaders of the quartet Never Wave Goodbye is a high octane suspense wrapped around several related (by the abductions) family dramas. Doug Magee gets inside the hearts and souls of the children and their parents; each sharing in common a fear they will not see one another ever again. Although the clues are obvious so that law enforcement seems inane and to a degree the parents (one can claim trepidation and grief for the latter), readers will relish this gut-wrenching human drama. Harriet Klausner