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9781400065172

Hello Goodbye : A Novel

by
  • ISBN13:

    9781400065172

  • ISBN10:

    1400065178

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-05-05
  • Publisher: Random House

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Summary

In a single week, a family leaves behind its past and a daughter awakens to the future in Emily Chenoweth's intimate and beautifully crafted debut novel. In the winter of 1990, Helen Hansencounselor, wife, and mother in the prime of her lifeis diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The following August, Helen, her husband, Elliott, and their daughter, Abby, a freshman in college, take a trip to northern New Hampshire, where Helen will be able to say goodbye to a lifetime of friends. Ensconced in a historic resort in the White Mountainsa place where afternoon cocktails are served on the veranda and men are expected to wear jackets after sixthe Hansens and their guests must improvise their own rituals of remembrance and reconnection. For Elliott, the trip is a parting gift to his beloved wife, as well as some needed respite from the caretaking duties that have become his main work. For Helen and the procession of old friends who come to pay their respects, the days offer a poignant celebration of a dear, too-brief life. And for Abby, still unaware that her mother's cancer is terminal, the week brings a surprising conflict between loyalty and desire as, drawn by the youthful, spirited hotel staff, she finds herself caught between the affections of two very different young men. Heartbreaking and luminous,Hello Goodbyedeftly explores a family's struggle with love and loss, as a summer vacation becomes an occasion for awakening rather than farewell, and life inevitably blossoms in the face of death. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

EMILY CHENOWETH is a former fiction editor of Publishers Weekly. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Bookforum, and People, among other publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Excerpts

February 1990  

By the time Helen comes in from her run, the first sparks of dawn, pale orange and chilly, are reaching through the bare trees in the backyard. On the other side of the fence, across a gully cut by a thin creek, the neighboring hospital puffs steam into the morning. From its vents and chimneys and pipes, clouds rise, catching light in their curling forms, turning pink and then fading to white. She slides a filter into the coffeemaker, pours in the last of the dark grounds, and leans against the counter. She’s been dizzy since her last mile, and sometimes when she turns her head quickly, her vision takes a moment to catch up: the breakfast table seems to wobble in the corner, and a silver blob resolves itself belatedly into the refrigerator.Call eye doctor,she scribbles on the grocery list, then addsFolgersbelowmilkand carrots.

 
When her daughter came home for winter break, Helen brewed endless pots of coffee; four months of college had turned Abby into a proper addict. She’d become a vegetarian, too, and a quasi- environmentalist, and an earnest proponent of domestic equity. She’d lectured Helen about the necessity of composting and talked at length about “the second shift,” which had something to do with how Helen, like most American women, had to work outside the home as well as make the dinners and do the laundry. 

When Helen went to college, there was Mass every day in the chapel and a dress code; one studied European history, geography, and psychology. Two decades later, her daughter is going to classes with names like “Literature of Conscience” and “Gender, Power, and Identity,” in jeans with sagging knees and sloppy, fraying cuffs. She reads books about poverty and oppression, which she discusses in classrooms with the children of the privileged. Abby considers Helen oppressed, though she will admit that, on the scale of cosmic injustices, her mother doesn’t have all that much to complain about. 

Helen yearns for her daughter when she’s gone, and she knows that Abby misses her, too. If Helen could, she’d go back to college with Abby–not to learn about poststructuralism or semiology, whatever those are, but just to watch her daughter’s life unfolding. She’d live in a different dorm, of course, or even off campus. But she’d be nearby, for support, and maybe sometimes they could meet for tofu burgers at the student- run café. She knows this is ludicrous, but there is no schooling the heart. 

She presses the start button on the coffeemaker, and it begins to make its comforting, burbling noises. The cat stitches itself around her ankles as she stands watching the first drops of coffee fall. Helen nudges her with her toe, but the cat comes back, purring, insistent. “Oh, Pig,” Helen says. “Get a life.” 

She rubs her temples–Honestly,she thinks,maybe I should go lie down again–and then her thoughts turn to Regina McNamara, one of her favorite and most incorrigible kids, busted yesterday for underage drinking in the city park right next to the police station. Helen has been a counselor at the county juvenile court for almost a decade. She knows all the bad kids and all the formerly bad kids, and every time she pumps her gas or goes to the grocery store she runs into one of the reformed; helping them find jobs is one of her specialties.

The coffeemaker hisses and bubbles. She stares at it, willing it to work faster, and in the corner of her eye there is a strange flash, like that of a lightbulb that has popped and burn

Excerpted from Hello Goodbye: A Novel by Emily Chenoweth
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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