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 Hansen–counselor, wife, and mother in the prime of her life–is 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 Mountains–a place where afternoon cocktails are served on the veranda and men are expected to wear jackets after six–the 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 Goodbye deftly 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.
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.
“A tender ode to empathy. . . Chenoweth intimately recalls the painful and thrilling uncertainty of the cusp of adulthood, and Abby fills this novel with energy and hope … Every page of this books serves as an affirmation of the terrible, wrenching beauty of life.”—Elle
“What should be a wistful, melancholy tale of grief is somehow anything but; in Emily Chenoweth's graceful hands, Abby is learning to live as her mother is learning to die.”—Entertainment Weekly, A-
“Elegantly crafted . . . entwines a teenage girl’s awakening with the heartrending grief of her mother’s passing.”—Vanity Fair
“Grave and compelling . . . equal parts riveting and real, tender and merciless. Her characters are utterly convincing, human in their complexity and contradiction, their bravado and fragility … Perhaps what I admire most about Hello Goodbye is how deftly Chenoweth takes on painful subject matter without sinking into either sentimentality or despair. Her gaze is unflinching, but her hand is light, and though this novel is at times harrowing, it's also a page-turner. This book broke my heart, but like all things capable of breaking our hearts, it has the spark of life.”— The Oregonian
“Offers a different sort of balm in troubled times: the simple inspiration of a family facing a terminal illness with as much grace as it can muster … It isn't just a meditation on grief and death. Abby's coming-of-age story brings a lot of life and humor to the book … A lovely read.”—Dallas Morning News
“An understated debut novel of great beauty and power . . . Heartbreaking yet unsentimental.”—Kirkus
“Moving and assured . . . Chenoweth’s smart, unsentimental and poignant takes on living and dying ring true, and her exploration of coming-of-age and coming to terms with mortality is divine.”—Publishers Weekly, starred
“[Chenoweth has] uncanny memories for the tenderest details of teenage emotions, mixed with impossibly sharp but sympathetic powers of retrospection.” —New York Times, on Chenoweth’s essay in the anthology The Friend Who Got Away
“Hello, Goodbye casts a kind eye on grief, and the love it arises from. Emily Chenoweth turns her illuminating intelligence on the ordinary moments of life and finds a poignant beauty in every one, gradually revealing the complex hearts of her characters as death overtakes the woman at the center of their world."—Heidi Jon Schmidt, author of The Bride of Catastrophe
“Hello Goodbye is compelling and convincing, filled with insight about family and the peculiar drama of living among others with whom we share, under mortal pressure, imperfect understanding and love. Chenoweth’s characters are as elusively ordinary as garden butterflies, and she pins them to the mat with surgical delicacy.”—Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons
"Hello Goodbye is a beautiful novel about a family on the brink of loss. Chenoweth's eye for telling detail is as sure as her language is playful. Hello Goodbye is both a wise and generous work."—Alice Sebold, author of The Almost Moon
“Is it terrible to suggest that Hello Goodbye is like a literary Dirty Dancing—only with the added gravitas of terminal disease, and acting courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company? I hope not, because you're in some really good hands with Emily Chenoweth, whether she's surprising you with just the perfect detail or masterfully crafting moments so intimate that you almost want to turn away for fear of eavesdropping too blatantly. This is a powerful, tremendously accomplished debut.”—T Cooper author of Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes
“In Hello Goodbye, Emily Chenoweth fuses the lightness of social comedy with the ferocious candor of grief.”—Dave King, author of The Ha-Ha
"There is a magic in Emily Chenoweth’s ability to inhabit her characters – the dying woman, the steadfast husband, the daughter just coming into her own, the loyal old friends – who each take their place in this moving requiem of a story.”—Maureen Howard, author of The Silver Screen
“Hello Goodbye is a wonderful novel—not just a wonderful first novel, but a wonderful novel, period. It is beautifully crafted and truly moving, without ever being maudlin. You won’t be able to put it down.”—Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row
“Emily Chenoweth tells this sad, piercing story of a family's last weeks together flawlessly. Intimate and sweet, funny and intelligent, Hello Goodbye manages the near impossible task of being both page-turning tale of a girl on the bright cusp of her adulthood, and the fierce and tragic story of what it means to manage grief, and to let go.”—Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country
"Deeply moving and yet unsentimental Hello Goodbye is as beautifully crafted as it is haunting. Emily Chenoweth's novel of love, death, the complications of friendship, and the irrevocability of innocence lost will warm your heart. Then, it will break your heart. An exquisite debut."—Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of An Almost Perfect Moment
"Emily Chenoweth's debut novel, Hello Goodbye, is wise and lovely. A story about a family preparing for death, it manages to be hopeful and life affirming in its portrayal of grief and love. A treasure!"—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle