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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin



Geraldine Coleshares was working on her doctorate when she was suddenly smitten by the rock and roll bug. Much to her parents’ dismay, she gave it all up to be the only white Shakette (backup singer) in a black, female rock and roll group called Ruby and the Shakettes.  She was very good at it, but according to her, not good enough to go solo.

In the process she meets her future husband, Johnny. They marry and she gives up her musical career because it was soon to peter out for a variety of reasons. Shortly after, they start a family. This new chapter in Geraldine’s life leaves her drifting. She loves being a mom, but can’t figure out who she really is and what she should be doing at the core.  She spends the remainder of the story groping for identity, and finally comes to terms with her Jewishness.

It seems to me that Colwin could not really decide what the message was she wanted to bring home to the readers. In a sense she is saying, “To thine own self be true.”  Be who you are meant to be and disregard what other people tell you to conform to. But the character never really does this, except at the beginning and when she decides to reconnect with her Jewishness. She is endowed with exceptional gifts which she downplays. So, what’s the point? I’m not sure. It seems that Colwin wants to stress that Geraldine feels lost because she’s never understood or celebrated her Jewishness. That you can be Jewish and something in addition to that doesn’t seem to be a part of the equation.

Colwin is a good writer but at times this book was draggy. I’ll give it 3 ½ stars.

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