The first thing you should know is that everyone lies.
The second thing is that it matters.
Indeed they do and indeed it does. Everyone lies or omits in this book and it does matter. Our tale is one of two families. The fathers are brothers and each includes a teenage daughter. These girls, Arden and Rory, are very close. Born only 4 months apart, they are quite different in personality. Rory is outgoing, popular, driven - Harvard bound. Arden is the artistic cousin. She's smart and shy and seems mostly in Rory's shadow. She wants to go to California to art school. However, the college plans of both girls will go awry due to financial issues. They begin their freshman year at a small state college.
As the book opens, the parents each receive a phone call. Their daughters have been injured in a fire at their dorm and are being taken to a local hospital. Another student has died and the police are investigating for arson. The Good Goodbye is told from 3 points of view - Arden, Rory, and Natalie, Arden's mother. Most of the present action is set in the hospital as Arden and Rory remain unconscious in intensive care, critically injured. We gradually find out more and more secrets as the narrative switches from character to character.
Natalie would have said that she knew her daughter and her niece so very, very well. She knows some things. She doesn't know many, many more. Each character has something to hide and the story winds back and back and back. These two families have been very intertwined, but sometimes weeds and thorns grow into the garden and are not removed. There they remain choking out the seeds that were planted with such love. Everyone lies.
I liked this book a lot. And I enjoyed the format, though some might not be as fond of the method the author used to tell the story. I like puzzling through the clues and deciding which secret might be most important or might even exist at all. It reminded me a little of Rosamund Lupton's Afterwards, another book set mostly in a hospital after a fire, with a mother finding out all kinds of things about her teenage daughter. The Good Goodbye related a situation that is one of a parent's worst fears - their child in a hospital ICU. It was poignant and scary. We feel for Natalie as she sits beside the bed trying to find one little spot where she can touch her daughter. The revelations of the hidden parts of each family's life were suspenseful. I wanted to know the answer to the questions posed - arson? Who? Why?
Interestingly enough, Carla Buckley wrote part of this book sitting at the bedside of her college-age son, after he was in an accident. She related in an interview that she was on a book tour when she got a call from her husband about their son's accident and dropped everything to go to him. She had already begun writing The Good Goodbye, but here she was experiencing the story firsthand. No wonder the emotions in the book rang true to me.
So, was I pleased with The Good Goodbye? Yes, I was. I've read another book by this author, The Things That Keep Us Here, and also liked it very much. Now I want to read the two books she's written in between. And I look forward to possibly seeing Carla Buckley on a panel at a mystery conference soon - even meeting her! Can't wait!
I think I'll add here that I wrote Carla Buckley and told her how much I enjoyed The Good Goodbye. I also told her that I hoped her son had recovered well. She very kindly wrote back and thanked me for my note. She also said that her son has recovered and is 100%. He is taking a semester abroad in his studies and enjoying it very much. I'm so pleased to hear that and wish him well!