Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel had a book cover I couldn’t resist. It’s funny the things that draw you to a book cover, isn’t it? When I read the publisher’s description, I couldn’t figure out what link the story had to the cover but I was intrigued enough that I wanted to find out. I’m so glad I did! This is a story about love and loss, of relationships we hold dear, but with a unique twist that only social media and the internet could provide. It’s definitely going to appeal to women and I think it should also appeal to men. Thanks to the publisher and author, we’ve got two advance readers copies (ARCs) of Goodbye for Now to give away to lucky readers! WooHoo!
Sam Elling is a software engineer slaving away for an internet dating company in Seattle. Because he lives the typical software engineer’s life, consisting of 24/7 work, he barely has time to sleep much less date. It’s really ironic that he’s working to help everyone else meet the love of their life but he’s alone.
The sad thing about online dating companies is that a lot of the people never meet their soul mate that way. Sure they get lots of dates but can they really reliably find the person they’re meant to be with? The company’s owner has an idea. What if they could write an algorithm that would reliably match soul mates? If they could do that, they could blow the competition out of the water.
“The problem with the stupid [dating service] form was that it wasn’t just that people didn’t tell the truth – though they didn’t. It was that there was no way to tell the truth, even if you wanted to. Things on a bedside table do not reveal a soul. Hopes of the future cannot be distilled for forms or strangers. Fill-in-the-blank questions are fun but not really indicative of the long-term future of a relationship. (They aren’t really that fun either.) Even the stuff with straightforward answers fails to reveal what you need to know.”
Creating that soul-mate algo becomes Sam’s new “I want it yesterday” project. And, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, he succeeds. Using himself as a test subject, and thereby killing two birds with one stone, he is able to match himself up with someone who seems perfect for him, Meredith. And, ironically enough, she works for the same company. After a couple of dates, it’s already clear that they really are soul mates.
Sam presents his successful project to the higher ups and they’re thrilled – until it actually works beyond their wildest dreams. This should be the happily ever after part, right? Wrong. You see, they realize that without all those poor lonely people continually paying dues there is no more business to be had. So, Sam gets unceremoniously canned with his do-not-compete clause hanging over his head and things go back to the way they were at the company.
“’The good news,’ said Jamie, ‘is that BB is just thrilled with how the whole conference has gone. The tech has been smooth. Our events have been glitch-free. You blew away everyone in the room with the algorithm and your presentation. The company looks great. The investors are thrilled. We’ve made BB a very rich man.’
‘Exactly my goal,’ said Sam. ‘What’s the bad news?’
Jamie made a face. ‘The bad news is he’s making me fire you.’…
‘Your algorithm is costing them a fortune…Turns out fixing up people is not how we make money. It’s failing to fix people up while still giving them hope that soon we might…’”
Sam is at loose ends, not knowing what to do with himself, and feeling really discouraged and depressed since he was fired for succeeding. At least Sam and Meredith have each other, which is wonderful.
Meredith and her grandmother, Livvie, have a really special bond so when Livvie suddenly passes away, Meredith is beyond inconsolable. She can’t believe they didn’t even get to say goodbye. The loss is just too much for her. Sam can’t bear to see Meredith in such pain and would literally do anything to reconnect her with her grandmother so they can say their goodbyes. And then it comes to him, maybe he actually can reconnect them. After briefly struggling over the potential ethical ramifications, he gets to work.
“‘I don’t know,’ said Meredith again. ‘You’d think predictable conversation would be boring, but it’s not; it’s reassuring. It’s not about knowing what she’d say. It’s about hearing her say what I know she will. Familiarity is comforting…Knowing is beside the point. I just want to be with her again, hear from her again, even an email, even a text, even a cancelled dinner date. I just want to believe she’s still out there somewhere…I know how to miss her for a few months. I just don’t know how to miss her forever.’”
Before long, Sam has created a simulation that goes beyond normal projected simulations. Using all of their prior video chats and emails, Facebook, text messages, etc., he has created something he hopes will help Meredith to get completion around her grandmother’s death. It’s not her grandmother but it’s the next best thing. This Livvie computer simulation can respond reliably by email, text, or in a video chat as she would have in real life. To say Meredith is ecstatic would be an understatement, and it soon becomes clear that it seems to be helping her.
Not long afterward, Sam and Meredith discuss whether this is something they should make available to other grieving families. How can they deny families the closure that comes with being able to gradually let go when sudden death occurs? So they form a company, RePose, along with Meredith’s PR-savy cousin, Dash, and slowly begin to pull in select clients by word of mouth. Unfortunately the clients can’t resist telling their deceased loved one that it died, causing the computer simulation confusion and denial, and ending in a system freeze that results in the program having to be wiped out and recreated.
“To wipe and have to start from scratch was like losing their loved one all over again…Sam wrote up a list of yamas and niyamas, RePose dos and don’ts, the very first bold printed fourteen-point one of which was: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, DO NOT TELL YOUR PROJECTION THAT IT’S DEAD!!!!…Users nodded and sniffled and understood…For a while, he made them sign an oath: ‘I promise not to tell my projection that it’s dead.’ They told anyway. Everyone. First goddamn thing out of their mouths.”
The company is wildly successful even though there are some definite problems to be worked out. There are the clients who want to repeatedly tell off their deceased spouses, which was unexpected, and, while a lot of clients are letting go, some are holding on by tooth and claw. Still a family of sorts is developing among the clients, who act as a support system for each other as well as for the company owners.
So if everything is suddenly so wonderful, this must be where the book ends and I’ve given the whole thing away, right? Wrong. There are ramifications to RePose that no one anticipated and the story takes on some agonizing twists and turns before it resolves. I’m not going to tell you what any of that is because it would ruin the experience – and I urge you to be careful if you look at other reviews for that reason. As for the book cover, it has a delightful tie-in to the book’s content which I’m also not going to give away. *cue the evil book reviewer’s laugh*
I loved Sam and Meredith equally. They are wonderful people who become amazing as a couple. Dash is very melodramatic and provides a lot of the comic relief in the story, as do several of the clients. I didn’t mention Meredith’s parents above. They’re artists who live on a Seattle-area island and, along with Livvie, show us a lot about who Meredith is at heart.
Laurie Frankel has written a heart-warming story, a story about love and loss, but one with a definite 21st century twist. Underneath that story, however, is a story about life with all of its ups and downs – and that is the story that makes Goodbye for Now extraordinary. Goodbye for Now is a portrait of the way real life, real loss, and real love exist – with technology or without it. I highly recommend it!
The film rights for Goodbye for Now have been optioned, so I strongly suspect we’ll be seeing this one on the big screen sometime in the future. I can hardly wait!
Can’t wait to read it?
Goodbye for Now was published on August 7, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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Two lucky readers will win an ARC of Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 8/25/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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