Goodbye Days by Jeff Zenter
Published by Penguin Random house on April 6 2017
Genres: young adult, contemporary, realistic fiction
Can a text message destroy your life?
Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.
Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?
I was kindly sent an e-arc of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Goodbye Days is a heartfelt story of grief, love and closure. It follows the main character Carver as he mourns the loss of this three best friends alongside the families and friends of the those involved in the accident.
Carver was an intriguing character, he was extremely insightful and introspective, his mind seemed to run one thousand miles and hour. Being a writer, Carver was incredibly expressive and it was fascinating being inside his head. I think this correlates closely with Jeff Zenter’s writing style, with its lush, vivid descriptions and poignant style, Zenter embellished every sentence with poise and preciseness. The connection between Carver’s distinct voice and Zenter’s writing created a magnificent harmony, resulting in a plethora of abstract quotes. The grievance that the characters were experiencing emanated off the pages, and I was surely alongside them, grieving in their company.
In addition to Carver, we’re introduced to an array of extraordinary people, we have Carver’s three best friends; Eli, Mars and Blake. The undeniable appreciation and love they had for one another was heartwarming. Together they had forged an inseparable bond and memories to last a lifetime. Jesmyn, Eli’s girlfriend prior to the crash, was an equally as engaging character. Understanding Carver’s grief, she supported him through his hardships, she was a rock that kept him stable throughout this mourning period. As the characters all attended a school for the arts, it was refreshing to see the abundance of creativity these characters exuded. Jesmyn played the piano, and listening to her play soon became a coping method for Carver. Jesmyn also had synaesthesia, a condition in which she visually see colours correlating to certain sounds. It was fascinating listening to Jesmyn explain the world as she saw it through her own eyes. Carver’s sister Georgia was equally as supportive as Jesmyn, another person helping him through the tough times. And we can’t forget Nana Betsy, Blake’s grandmother who raised him, she is such a sweet and adoring character, it was beautiful seeing her interact with Carver. There was also a fair amount of diversity present in the book, there is a Philipino character who is adopted, an LGBTQ+ character, an African-American character and representations of dysfunctional families. Topics of racism, LGBTQ+ and mental illness were touched upon, in a way in which they were seamlessly integrated into the story.
Despite these incredible characters however, romance wasn’t present in this book. Carver develops a romantic interest later on in the book. But this doesn’t result in a romantic relationship. Regardless, I felt that this story didn’t necessarily require romance, as its main focus is on bereavement and finding closure.
This leads into my next topic of discussion, the plot. Goodbye Days isn’t largely plot based, we follow Carver through his (mostly) usual motions. The main points of interest are the ‘Goodbye Days’, which are days in which Carver spends with the family members of the deceased in order to commemorate their life, sharing stories about their life and doing activities that they loved. This act was a way for Carver and the families of the those involved in the accident to honour the lives of those who passed as well as find closure for themselves. In saying this, Goodbye Days isn’t massively plot heavy and I found it to be a slower, more unhurried read.
Conclusively, Goodbye Days is a touching story that deals with overcoming grief and finding closure. This book had an air of mourning accompanied with the reminiscence of the joys of life. Both the characters and writing will touch your heart, leaving you with a sense of longing even after you’ve finished the last sentence.
*Quotes have been pulled from arc and are subject to change*
“I sometimes look at my bookshelf now and think about how someday I’m going to die without ever reading a lot of the books there. And one might be life-changingly goog and I’ll never know”
“Night decends as a falling blanket. The city is a constellation of lights, each one representing a hand that turned on a lightbulb. A hand attatched to a mind containing a universe of memories and myths; a natural history of loves and wounds. Life everywhere. Pulsing, humming. A great wheel turning. A light blinks out here, one replaces it there. Always dying. Always living. We survive until we don’t. All of this ending and beginning is the only thing that’s infinite.”
“Sure, I’ve written a few stories here and there, but my masterwork was a two-sentence-long text message that ended three stories. I’m the only writer in the world who makes stories disappear by writing.”
“Grief is weird. It seems to come in these waves out of nowhere. One minue I’m standing in the ocean, fine. The next minute I’m drowning.”
“Sometimes, though, you want to remember every minute you spent with someone. You want to remember even the most mudane moments. You wish you had inhabited them more completely and marked yourself more indelibaly – not in spite of their ordinariness, but because of it. Because you’re not ready for the story to end. But you only discover this when it’s too late.”
“Our minds seek causality because it suggests an order to the universe that may not actually exist, even if you believe in some higher power. Many people would prefer to accept an undue share of blame for a tragic event than concede that there’s no order to things. A Capricious existence where bad things happen to good people for no discernible reason is frightening.”
“You don’t want to live life you’re constantly in the shadow of death, but unless you do that, there’ll alwys be things that went unsaid or unappreciated fully.”
“‘Will I ever be okay again?’ I ask. I expect so. It’ll take time and work. But someday your world will be put right. I’ve never found it to be a matter of purging yourself of feeling, but rather of coming to live with it. Making it a part of you that doesn’t hurt so badly. You know how oysters make pearls?’ I nod. ‘Like that,’ he says. ‘Our memories of our loved ones are the pearl that we form around the grain of grief that causes us pain.'”
“There’s a water cycle. Water never goes away. It never dies or is destroyed. It just changes from form to form in a continuous cycle, like energy. On a hot summers day, you’ve drunk water that a dinosaur drank. You might have cried tears that Alexander the Great cried. So I’m returning Eli’s energy – his spirit – and all that it contained . His life. His music. His memories, His loves. All the beautiful things in him. I give it to the water so he can live that way now. Form to form. Energy to energy. Maybe I’ll meet my son again in the rain, or in the ocean. Maybe he hasn’t touched my face for the last time.”
“I tell him I believe we are stories of breath and blood and memory and that some things never finally end. I tell him I hope, after we’re gone, there’s a day when a great wind fills our stories with life again again they rise from sleep; and that I write the best story I can – one that echoes in the void of eternities at least for a time.”
Have you read this book or Jeff Zenter’s debut novel The Seperpent King? Let me know your thoughts! Do you want to read Goodbye Days?