Published by Sparkpress on May 3, 2016
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Melanie, a perfectionist mom who views the approaching end of parenting as a type of death, can t believe she has only one more year to live vicariously through her slacker senior son, Dane. Gorgeous mom Sarah has just begun to realize that her only daughter, Ashley, has been serving as a stand-in for her traveling husband, and the thought of her daughter leaving for college is cracking the carefully cultivated facade of her life. Will and his wife are fine as long as he follows the instructions on the family calendar and is sure to keep secret his whole other life with Lauren, the woman he turns to for fun (and who also happens to have a daughter in the senior class).
Told from the points of view of both the parents and the kids, The Goodbye Year explores high school peer pressure, what it s like for young people to face the unknown of life after high school, and how a transition that should be the beginning of a couple s second act together empty nesting is often actually the end."
I received this book for free from the publicist and/or the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
WOW. I started The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda and only put it down when I absolutely had to. When I was not reading it, I was thinking about it. I haven’t been as engrossed in a book in a while and I loved every second of it.
The Goodbye Year features five different families that are dealing with their childrens’ Senior Year/graduation/going off to college, which means that they are facing Empty Nests, and none of them are handling it as well as they would like to be. There are quite a few POV’s telling this story – we hear from both parents and children – so the perspectives are both awesome and varied. These families have a broad range of issues going on: mothers that just don’t want to accept that the youngest child is leaving home for college, substance abuse, body image issues, teens asserting themselves and becoming more independent, all sorts of marriage issues – it seems like there is a ton of stuff packed in here but the point is that every single family has something going on behind their closed doors and that while this book is indeed about these young people leaving home one day soon, it’s also about the issues within the families and how these things weigh on the dynamic of the family as a whole. Some of these families will not survive Senior Year intact, and the reasons are pretty incredible. On the other hand, some of these family will survive, and their stories are pretty incredible too.
The author took time with each of these characters, developing them and giving us a nice glimpse into all of their lives, both personally and within other relationships. I love that even though there is a character cast, I never felt like I was lost among the crowd of characters – I was able to keep everyone separated easily throughout the story. There is a page at the beginning of the book that lists the characters in each family; I found it helpful while I was reading the first few pages. Beyond this, I found that I didn’t really need this chart. So: the character cast is large, but quite easy to manage.
Every single thing about this book boiled down to a story that I devoured. I loved every second of it. Granted, not all of these characters were people that I’d want to spend time around in real life, but I certainly enjoyed being entertained by them and peeping into their lives for a little while. When I got to the end of the story, I was satisfied with how things ended, but I’M TELLING YOU, I was so into everything that I probably could have kept going for who-knows-how-many-more-pages if they’d have been there.
An interesting thing about The Goodbye Year is that while these characters were not all likable and each of them had flaws and weaknesses: I was able to pick out parts of myself in pretty much all of them. I’m not at the same place in my life that these characters find themselves, but I can certainly appreciate the emotional weight it put on both the women and the men in this book, and I can appreciate the message of hope and of valuing and repairing relationships of all types.
I recommend this book to people that like a doggone good story. This will be such good poolside reading, beach reading, outside reading, whatever reading this summer. Or whenever! This was my first book by Kaira Rouda and I definitely need to find more of her books as soon as I can. I loved getting completely lost in this one.
Her youngest son was a failure who wouldn’t speak to her in complete sentences any longer. Their relationship had turned toxic and she didn’t know why. All she wanted was the best for him during their last year together but, as far as she could tell, all he wanted was to hide out in his bedroom playing video games and ignoring homework. He would not be venturing off to an Ivy League college. Dane might not even make it to community college. He might work in a print shop. This room could be his future? How will I ever show my face around town? Melanie wondered, pulling at her pearl necklace to keep it from choking her.
Suddenly the room started to spin, and as she looked at the sea of fluorescent parent faces, the scene began to flash black and white and her ears filled with a rushing water noise as if someone had opened a firehose. The last thing she remembered was turning, stricken, to grab Jud’s shoulder before everything went blank.
Melanie slowly opened her left eye, a crack, just enough to try to figure out where she was. It seemed to her, from her limited view and perspective, she was lying on the floor of a classroom. And that was simply disgusting. She opened both eyes and rolled to her right side—a move ingrained in her during yoga class as a way to end savasana aka lying down as if sleeping– and began to sit. Her stomach felt like she’d eaten an egg. She was mildly allergic to eggs, just enough to feel, well, like this. According to the article she’d read, feeling sadness because your useful life has ended was a sign of Empty Nest Syndrome, but fainting wasn’t. Was there something else wrong too, she wondered.
“Whoa, take it slowly, Mel,” Jud said, rushing to her side from wherever he had been lurking. Melanie was now sitting and would, no matter what Jud said, get herself up and out of here immediately. She realized the stools were empty, in fact the entire classroom was barren. Just her and Jud. Perfectly horrible. And why did he insist on calling her Mel?
“I’m fine, Jud, really,” Melanie said, as Jud helped pull her to standing. He had soft, mushy hands, she thought. Standing, she brushed at her dress and wondered if she’d exposed herself as she fell. She felt the back of her head for a bump and was relieved when she found nothing.
“I caught ya,” Jud said, puffing out his chest. “Good thing I happened to sit right next to you, eh? Do you have a lot of those fainting spells, Mel?”
“No, I’ve never fainted. Thank you for catching me. So embarrassing. Well, gotta go,” Melanie said looking around for her purse and spotting it on the shop table. She grabbed it and pulled out her lipstick for comfort.
“You shouldn’t drive. I’ll run you home and Sarah or somebody can drive you to the school tomorrow to grab your car. I insist.”
As much as Melanie loathed the thought, she did feel even dizzier than she’d felt when she’d arrived for Parent’s Night. Her stomach roiled. And clearly, she had missed a number of Dane’s classes already, if not all of them. “What period are we on?” she asked, rubbing the pearl necklace around her neck, hoping to manifest a sense of calm and normalcy she didn’t feel. She quickly swiped lipstick across her bottom lip and felt better.
“The night’s about half over, but for you it’s a wrap. I had Annie run around and get you the information from the rest of Dane’s teachers,” Jud said, patting Melanie’s hand, forcing her to notice the age spots and the intersecting veins protruding like angry snakes. Argh.
“Annie?” Melanie said, realizing now the high school queen bee would know Dane was in all regular classes, no AP classes for this one.
“Yes, I just texted my daughter’s friend and explained what was going on and she was happy to help. Did you know Ashley and Annie are rooming together at Harvard next year? Such good girls,” Jud said, steepling his hands together and then cracking his knuckles with a loud, precise movement.
“Such,” Melanie said, wondering how quickly she could make her escape from Crystal Beach High School if she had the weight of Dr. Nelson’s celebrity around her neck. She was high-profile enough, simply because her family lived behind the guarded gates of the most exclusive community in town. Plus, she was now the latest gossip item, the fainting episode would be the talk of the town. They’d never make it through the crowd. She needed an escape. “Jud, say, I’m going to run to the ladies room. I’ll meet you in the parking lot.”
“Are you sure you’re feeling alright, Mel?”
“—anie,” she said, finishing her name involuntarily. “Yes, yes, I’ll be fine,” she added hurrying out the door and into the foggy night. Melanie decided she actually should duck into a restroom and check her appearance before navigating the quad. She rounded the corner heading away from the now fog-enshrouded football field and dashed into the restroom. She’d been in here many times before, jockeying with teenage girls for a spot at the sink to wash her hands while they primped and reapplied makeup.
Melanie wondered if she had been that self-absorbed in high school and decided she probably had been, but it was still annoying. Since she never had a girl of her own, she took sublime pleasure in judging everyone else’s. Tonight, blissfully, the line up of sinks and mirrors were teen-free and she hoped she had the entire bathroom to herself. She glanced at her hair, noting the frizz that the fog and her overall state of mind had taken. She was a mess. Her face was ghostly white, even taking into account the fluorescent lighting. A toilet flushed, and Melanie hurried into the first stall to avoid talking to whoever was finishing up.
She heard the tap tap tap of the woman’s heels walking past the row of stalls, including the one Melanie had ducked inside, and heard her turn on the squeaky faucet.
“Wonderful evening, as always,” the woman said, to nobody Melanie assumed, and then she heard her laugh. A quiet, almost desperate laugh.
“Hello Sarah, nice to see you,” a second woman’s voice said.
Inside her stall, Melanie’s heart dropped at the sound of even more company.
“You as well. Wonderful night at the high school. They do such a nice job with this, and all things for the children,” Sarah said, and Melanie imagined Sarah applying powder to her perfect face as her mouth attempted a smile directed at the other woman.
“Thanks to you and your husband. You guys fund everything,” the other woman said. “I’m going to need David to step it up.”
“Actually, Lauren, he used to be quite involved before,” Sarah said, as Melanie heard the change of tone as clearly as the other woman must have.
“You mean before me. With his first wife,” the woman, Lauren, said.
“Yes, that’s what I mean. Have a good night,” Sarah said as Melanie heard her heels tap tap tap out of the bathroom, and the door bang closed behind her. Melanie imagined Sarah, dressed as she had been in silk screening class, in a skin-tight, vibrant blue designer dress, perfectly accessorized. With a simple sentence she’d shamed the poor woman Lauren who now stood staring at herself in the mirror. Sarah was a force in town, someone to fear, Melanie knew, and whoever the other woman was in the bathroom, she’d just been put in her place. Melanie realized she should go say hi, at least, and actually, she was curious as to who it was that had caused the queen bee to show her true colors.
“Hey, you in there?” a man’s voice floated into the bathroom, echoing off the thin mirrors and the cracked white ceramic tile.
Inside her hiding stall, Melanie’s heart thumped a beat. Was Jud trying to find her?
“Yes, I am,” answered Lauren, the woman Sarah had been talking to, in what could only be described as a seductive voice. Who was Lauren, Melanie wondered. Oh, of course, her husband David Potts owned at least five Mercedes dealerships in Southern California. Melanie had been told the scoop shortly after moving to town. David’s family had the business.
Lauren had been his young, hot secretary. It had been a scandal when they had married, what with the twenty-year age difference and David’s first wife and three young children. But everyone in town had eventually accepted the new Mrs. Potts, with the exception of Sarah it seemed. Melanie knew The Potts lived in a sprawling mansion along the coast in south Crystal Beach. And they had one daughter, Kiley, who was in Dane’s class.
Mystery solved, Melanie was about to find the courage to extract herself from her hiding place and say hello to Lauren and her husband when she heard the unmistakable sound of two people making out.
Really, in the girls’ bathroom, Melanie thought, equal parts disgust and jealousy rising from the center of her being.
“Oh, oh,” Lauren said, a breathless, sensual sigh. Melanie knew then she was trapped in a romance novel, stuck in her stall in the girls’ bathroom. Could the evening get any worse, she wondered.
ABOUT KAIRA ROUDA
Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women’s fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER’S DAY. Kaira’s work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines.
Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster’s The Remington’s Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.
Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.
She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books and on her website, KairaRouda.com.