ARC Review: Goodbye Days

Goodbye DaysGoodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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?

A realistic and poignant portrayal of grief, Goodbye Days takes us into the life of Carver, a young man who loses his best friends – Mars, Blake and Eli – in a car accident, and who blames himself for possibly causing it. At the time of the accident, one of his best friends Mars (who was driving) was texting him back. Now, in the aftermath of that accident, Carver is stuck in a whirlpool of grief, fear and guilt. The grief because he lost his closest and only friends in the world, the fear because one of the parents wants a criminal investigation into the accident with the purpose of seeing him in prison, and guilt because moving on feels like he is being stabbed over and over with their loss. My only experience with such a kind of grief has been distant (a family member dying) so I wouldn’t know how to even imagine losing someone who has been a part of your life so closely and who have brought light into your life. Now, in his Sauce Crew-less world, his support system is his sister and Eli’s girlfriend, Jesmyn. Coping with loss and trying to survive through it are the main arcs of this story.

Emotion-wise, Goodbye Days is raw – it will make you laugh along with the shenanigans of the Sauce Crew, the witty quips between Carver and his sister or Carver and Jesmyn, and make you cry at every part where he remembers them or when their loss hits him hard. Trying to get closure, he agrees to a ‘goodbye day’ with Blake’s grandmother – a day where they would hang out like Blake would with his grandmother, and they can tell each other stories about Blake. What really made me cry in these moments was the fact that it is a wound that you open again and again, to remember the person, but also to let yourself heal. But all of his goodbye days are not the same – because not all people process grief in the same manner. His goodbye days with the other parents are not beautiful and light, but they also show the varied ways in which people mourn.

What I liked in this novel is the presence of a positive support system and a good therapy doctor who help Carver come to terms with this loss. It is not that he is happy and healed at the end of the book, but he is in a place where he can process through the grief of his friends in a better way. I loved the characters in the book, especially his sister, and I also loved how they were open with one another, be it the love or the hatred. I mean, I expected it because it I read The Serpent King, but the writing blew me over again. Zentner crafted an emotional, beautiful piece of art with this novel.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Random House, via Netgalley.

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