I read seventy pages the first night, and the remaining two hundred the second night, because I could not put this book down. The author, Michael Murphy, suggested I might like it because I'm passionate about finding good fiction featuring older people. Goodbye, Emily was so enjoyable I am pleased to feature it on my blog's Midlife Fiction page.
Walter "Sparky" Ellington is a recently fired English professor who's dying of a broken heart. His beloved Emily, who he met at Woodstock, passed away two years ago and he can't get over her. He is becoming a recluse and his health is deteriorating as he drowns his sorrows in Jim Beam. At sixty, he awaits death.
However, a whole ensemble of compelling characters work to prevent that from happening. Drugs, sex, and rock `n roll are all a part of the story. Sparky's ultimate quest - to spread Emily's ashes at Yasgur's farm with two childhood friends, one with PTSD from `Nam and one with Alzheimers' - turns into a riotous car chase in a psychedelic van, eluding state troopers and an overzealous DA, while his attorney daughter struggles to keep the old man out of prison...I can't say more, because I don't want to spoil it. But this is a great story, replete with vignettes from that grand concert and musical references that I hadn't thought of for years and now can't get out of my head, like Arlo Guthrie and "Comin' into Los AngelEEZ..."
I loved the humanity of the characters. The men were kind to each other, in spite of the usual manly wolf tickets. I felt they demonstrated a depth of personality that only becomes a possibility after a long and rich life - rich in the sense of joy as well as anguish. I chuckled along, and in places I cried, and I finished the book with sad/happy tears running down my face - happy to have enjoyed the memories and sad for the days gone by.