The Good Goodbye

by Carla Buckley
Ballantine, January 2016, $27

In The Good Goodbye, Carla Buckley’s fourth novel, Arden and Rory Falcone are more like sisters than cousins; they grew up together, are best friends, and even look alike. Rory was always the leader and Arden the follower. They both have dreams of their own: Arden wants to go to art school in California and Rory wants to go to Harvard, but when their parents’ jointly owned restaurant begins to fail, they agree to be roommates at an affordable, local college. It is seemingly idyllic, but everything falls apart when Arden’s mother, Natalie, gets a telephone call that her daughter and Rory are in critical condition after jumping from the window of their dorm room to escape a fire.

The circumstances of the fire are suspect, and Natalie can’t reconcile the daughter she knows with what the arson investigation begins to bring to the surface. The girls’ relationship is more complicated than Natalie ever knew.

The Good Goodbye opens with fragmented confusion, both Natalie’s and the reader’s—skipping from the present to past and back again—but as the story forms, and the characters are revealed, it settles into something unexpected. The narrative alternates perspective among Natalie, Arden, and Rory, revealing the girls’ secrets in a tantalizing, suspenseful way. It is a melancholy coming-of-age story filled with secrets, fear, rivalry, and betrayal. It’s also an entertaining story with a nicely executed climactic twist as satisfying as it is surprising.

Ben Boulden
Teri Duerr
January 2016