#BookReview: The Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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About the Book

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

My Thoughts

This is an incredibly moving novel about bereavement and finding your way through grief. Carver sent a text to his friend, and this led to the car accident that killed his three best friends and now he has to find a way to live with that.

I have to be honest and say that I found it a bit far-fetched that someone who sent a text could potentially be held legally responsible for the death of the person who read that text whilst they were driving and died in an accident as a result. This jarred with me and made it difficult to get into this book. However, once I put that to one side and focused on what the book was really about I found it such a heartbreaking read.

I lost my best friend when I was just a little older than Carver, and it’s so hard to process that someone so young can just be gone. I felt such empathy for Carver, and his thoughts through his grieving process were so real and raw to me. The descriptions of grief are so well written and absolutely believable.

Carver and the Nana of one of his friends decide to hold a goodbye day – where they spend a day together doing the things that each of them had enjoyed with Blake, and sharing their memories. I think this is such a wonderful idea, a dedicated time to share things – it must be a very emotional but ultimately cathartic experience.

Carver then holds a goodbye day with the parents of his other two friends who were killed. Each of the three days show the different ways that people grieve after losing a child – the devastation, the anger, the hurt. It’s palpable in places. I found the goodbye day Carver spends with Mars’ dad to be the most emotional and affecting.

Through the course of the novel Carver works through all of the feelings that come with grief, and the over-riding emotion is loneliness and this broke my heart. I remember that feeling so well, and it’s such a hard thing to come through. Once you lost someone you’re so close to you can never be the same person again, you just have to learn to be ok with the loss of them and the loss of the part of you that they took with them.

This book ultimately is a book about redemption, about how we atone for the things we’ve done wrong, or are perceived to have done wrong. It’s a book about the depths of grief, but our ability to recover and to find a way through the pain. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.

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