Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Goodbye Without Leaving” as Want to Read:
Goodbye Without Leaving
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Goodbye Without Leaving

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  765 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
An insightful domestic comedy, at once hilarious and extremely moving, Goodbye Without Leaving is the story of a woman's attempt to remain true to herself in a world of diminishing returns. As a bored graduate student, Geraldine Colshares is plucked from her too-tame existence when she is invited to tour as the only white backup singer for Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the S ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 16th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published 1990)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Goodbye Without Leaving, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Goodbye Without Leaving

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,312)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 15, 2008 Penelope rated it it was ok
Really hated the main character and all of her whining, ungratefulness, unfaithful, selfish bitching. I have an extreme hard time with people who choose not to be happy. Life's too short ... CHEER THE HELL UP.
Jan 17, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
The book, like so much good fiction, is narrowly focused--New York, middle class, Jewish families, set loosely (I think) in the 70's. The main character was a white back up dancer for an black band. Once she leaves that life, she can't or won't define herself going forward. Since she can't settle she interacts with all kinds of people, her reactions saying more about her than them.

The book explores what it means to grow up, have an identity, have a shared history, and the sniping of women defen
Jun 14, 2009 David rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Geraldine doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up. She chucks her dissertation to go tour as the only white backup singer for Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes. Settling down as a wife and mother seems kind of tame after her years as a Shakette.

This book is a first-person account of Geraldine's story. How much you like it will depend on how you react to Geraldine's voice. It worked for me - though the navel-gazing is extensive, there's enough humor to make it tolerable.

St Fu
Dec 14, 2013 St Fu rated it really liked it
About a woman, Geraldine, trying to find out where she belongs. (M)others try and tell her but she rejects what they say. Sometimes her very rejection looks like a place to belong. While we enjoy searching with her, rooting for her to succeed, we understand that her search is misguided.

Her friend Mary appears to know where she herself belongs (and eventually goes there). Her husband finds that Geraldine is where he belongs--paradoxical since Geraldine thinks she's nowhere at all. She understand
Nov 25, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it
I LOVED A Big Storm Knocked It Over and Happy All the Time, so I thought I would love this. But I didn't feel as excited about this one. Colwin's books aren't really plot oriented, but while I enjoyed languishing in the environment created in the other two books, this one felt really slow. I was kind of jealous of the main character for having such a charmed life, but she was always unhappy and I was ever so slightly annoyed by that. I appreciated the sense of feeling lost, and enjoyed the Colwi ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My mom always asks me for book club suggestions and what she wants is a happy book. Happy books are few and far between. Sometimes I think novelists concoct crazy situations to torture characters for the sake of a plot. Laurie Colwin knows how to write a book that makes you think, smile, laugh, lose yourself, and fall hard for her characters. I had always loved her food writing and feared her novels, worrying somehow that they would live up to the love I have for her essays on cooking and food. ...more
Ellen Puccinelli
Oct 06, 2008 Ellen Puccinelli rated it it was amazing
Perhaps my favorite book of all time. I can't say enough about this wonderful writer who died far too soon. Laurie had the ability to make you think that everything was going to be ok and that everything in this world was more good than bad. Her descriptions are absolutely amazing. Every word she uses is dead perfect. In Laurie's world, people are eccentric rather than dysfunctional -- nice perspective. This novel, her posthumously-published A Big Storm Knocked It Over, and her collections of fo ...more
Oct 08, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it
I like Laurie Colwin. She writes about music and food and has a healthy sense of humor. However, it is not my favorite thing to read about how women get married, then have babies, then get old, and turn into withered shells of their former vibrant selves. I'm not saying that this is what marriage and kids necessarily do to people, but that's how this character (who whined a lot) seemed to feel about it. Domesticity is starting to sound less and less appealing.

Waaaaaaaaah can Southwest Airlines
Oct 19, 2016 Holly rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The first paragraph on the dust-jacket description of my copy is about how awesome Laurie Colwin is. The second paragraph is about the book itself, and it reads:
As an aging graduate student whiling away her youth, Geraldine Coleshares was rescued by rock and roll and realized her dream: to go on tour as the only white backup singer with Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes. Now [Now!] those days are over, and Geraldine must reinvent herself as the wife of lawyer Johnny Miller (whose imitati
Catherine Egan
Nov 30, 2012 Catherine Egan rated it it was amazing
This book delighted me from start to finish. I am, officially, a Laurie Colwin convert.

The heroine of Goodbye Without Leaving, Geraldine, ditches her graduate degree on Jane Austen and runs off to become the sole white back-up singer with an Ike & Tina Turner type duo on the cusp of making it big. Inevitably, when success comes, the white back-up singer has to go. She marries a rock n roll loving lawyer, has a baby, works some odd jobs that allow her to maintain her sense of being somehow "
Nancy McKibben
Dec 22, 2012 Nancy McKibben rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who like quirky heroines and old rock and roll standards
Recommended to Nancy by: I read it because I love Laurie Colwin, the author
Shelves: favorites, humor, reviewed
Goodbye Without Leaving
By Laurie Colwin

Geraldine Coleshares is a directionless graduate student who can barely stand the thought of writing a dissertation on her chosen topic, Jane Austen and the War of the Sexes. Instead, she leaves school to follow her real passion, rock and roll, becoming the token white backup singer for Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes.

“My mother had high hopes for me,” Geraldine says. “I disappointed her daily.” Her plunge into rock and roll has no backers among h
Deb Oestreicher
Feb 02, 2016 Deb Oestreicher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel--about a young woman who leaves her graduate studies to become a backup singer, and then struggles to make sense of her life when that gig ends--is a pleasure to read. The first-person narrative voice is engaging and charming and the dialogue and observations are typically clever and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. The final third of the book feels rather meandering and less convincing but not fatally so. Makes me want to go back and reread Colwin's other books.
May 02, 2016 Debbie rated it liked it
This book, among others, was recommended to me by my community librarian after I gave her a list of books I liked and did not like. Although I liked the other books on her list a lot more than this one, I have to say I'm glad she brought it to my attention. I didn't actually feel much for the main character--she's more of a caricature than a character--but the book has an appealing atmosphere that made it a pleasure to read.
Aug 19, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
Adorable, laugh-out-loud book that still managed to sneak a bunch of "big thinks" into its narrative: how can a woman be herself and a mother, how to navigate the world, what does it mean to be Jewish esp. in America.... This is my first Laurie Colwin book, can't wait to read more!
Feb 25, 2015 Kit rated it it was ok
When I finally finished this book, I was glad it was over. The main character, Geraldine, was neurotic in ways that kept me annoyed through most of the book. Really tedious.
Katharine Holden
Overwritten and a bit precious. Didn't believe in any of the characters. Do plan to look for other Colwin books because I liked Goodbye Without Leaving very much.

Tedious at times with Geraldine's constant whining. Liked how the Jewish immigrant history was woven into the story. Ok read overall.
Jan 20, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
If you've ever tried to sing along with the back-up singers, you will enjoy this book, humorous and self-reflective. As I used to tell my students, good books will be reread and the especially good parts will be worth the waiting. This was the case for this book with me.
Jen Bojkov
I don't remember much about this one. I just know I wasn't blown away by it and I think I didn't like the ending either.
Aug 30, 2014 Nell rated it really liked it
Second, maybe third reading for me over the years. My favorite among the books by Laurie Colwin I've read.
May 15, 2009 Erin rated it it was ok
This book tells the story of Geraldine, who as a young woman was a backup singer for Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes. Later, though Geraldine marries a handsome doctor and has all the trappings of a good life, she finds herself restless and unsatisfied. She reflects often on her days as a Shakette and wishes for that kind of moment again.

My major problem with this book is that the main character is unsympathetic and unlikeable. Her selfishness escalates to a point that is really ridicu
Oct 01, 2015 Beverly rated it it was ok
I have little patience for books that try too hard to make the characters colorful.
Jul 18, 2014 Kari rated it it was ok
a meandering story of an apathetic human being. a quick read that is written well with zero inspiration.
Feb 10, 2010 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find Colwin's blend of wit and poignancy irresistible, and I particularly like this book, the story of a woman struggling to reconcile her present life with her past as the only white backup singer for a black rock and roll group. Colwin's novels have much to do with love and with parenthood, and I find that I appreciate them even more now that I have a son myself; she has a knack for hitting the nail right on the head: "The look of happiness on his [the heroine's toddler's:] face when he saw ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Becky rated it it was ok
Too much whining. I have trouble with weak protagonists.
Jul 11, 2014 Bryan rated it it was amazing
I just loved this. I didn't think the premise sounded that interesting but it ended up being wonderful and just a launching point for a story about someone finding themselves as an adult. I loved Geraldine and I love how Laurie Colwin writes such realistic, wonderful, loveable characters who are flawed but fantastic and never judged.
Jan 22, 2016 Melissa marked it as to-read
Recommended by robin
John Acy Reinhart
Nov 01, 2015 John Acy Reinhart rated it really liked it
Everyone should read Laurie Colwin.
May 28, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it
A longtime favorite
May 11, 2016 Corey rated it really liked it
Pure delight. What a sad thing, her dying early.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 43 44 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Closed Eye
  • Now You See Her
  • Cheerfulness Breaks In
  • I Cannot Get You Close Enough: Three Novellas
  • Kyra: A Novel
  • The Provincial Lady in America
  • A Week in October
  • Le bûcher d’un roi (Le trône de fer, #13)
  • Le Mariage
  • During the Reign of the Queen of Persia
  • Incident at Twenty-Mile
  • Devil's Trill (Daniel Jacobus Mystery, #1)
  • Way Down on the High Lonely (Neal Carey, #3)
  • Not All Tarts Are Apple
  • Mosquito
  • Picturing Will
Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time, Family Happiness, Goodbye Without Leaving, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object, and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.
More about Laurie Colwin...

Share This Book

“How lucky, I thought, were people who had known from earliest childhood what they wanted to do. All the children in my grammar school, who said they wanted to be doctors, had grown up to become doctors. This was also the case apparently with firemen, veterinarians, songwriters, and race car drivers.

I had opted for a kind of pure experience, which, as Doo-Wah had pointed out, is not usually something you get paid for. I did not want to write a book about it. I did not want to write so much as an article. I wanted to be left alone with my experience and go on to the next thing, whatever that was.”
“These days any planned thing looked good to me. What heaven to have your work cut out for you, to be part of the Big Picture -- a picture you did not have to paint yourself.” 1 likes
More quotes…