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The Goodbye Summer    by Patricia Gaffney order for
Goodbye Summer
by Patricia Gaffney
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Caddie Winger, thirty-two years old and still living at home with her grandmother, feels stuck. Virtually abandoned by the musician mother who died when Caddie was nine, she never knew her father's identity and was raised by her eccentric, artist grandmother. But Nana, who is becoming forgetful and recently broke her leg in a fall, wants to move into Wake House, a home for the elderly. Though Caddie is apprehensive, Nana assures her it's only for a short time until she recovers. Caddie eventually sees this as an opportunity to break out of her current lifestyle.

Wake House is filled with interesting people -most of them elderly, but a couple are not. Magill intrigues Caddie. He's close to her own age, yet he has severe problems with balance. She finds out that he experienced a skydiving accident which also claimed the life of his girlfriend. As one of the Wake House activities, residents are asked to write a short autobiography. After Caddie does a wonderful job summarizing Nana's life, the others ask her to write about theirs as well. She makes many new friends, but also discovers a great deal about herself in the process. Living alone gives Caddie time to consider her past, present, and future, and to make decisions that will affect the remainder of her life.

Patricia Gaffney offers us a thoughtful new novel. It is often slow moving, as Caddie's learning progresses at a natural pace. Each character's unique personality adds depth to the story. The histories that Caddie writes for them, as well as the interviews she conducts, breathe life into elderly people who believed they had nothing left to contribute. Readers will come to care about what happens to them. The author has a gift for characterization, so look forward to a real treat, but don't expect an edge-of-the seat thriller. The novel follows Caddie through a summer of change, and that change does not occur all at once.

Caddie is both realistic and refreshing, which endeared her to me from the beginning. Experiencing the ways she confronts her fears and allows herself to give her heart to others is touching. The Goodbye Summer is a great choice for quiet, contemplative reading.

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