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Goodbye Without Leaving

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  945 ratings  ·  94 reviews
“Poignant and hilarious . . . . Irresistible.” — Washington Post

An insightful domestic comedy, at once hilarious and extremely moving, Goodbye Without Leaving by acclaimed author Laurie Colwin, is the story of one 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 existen
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 16th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  945 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Jan 17, 2015 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
Nov 15, 2008 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.
Jun 13, 2009 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 01, 2013 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
Feb 17, 2012 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
Ellen Puccinelli
Sep 30, 2008 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
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another great Laurie Colwin... I enjoyed Family Happiness more, but I still liked this one. I am appreciating how she conveys the complexity of human emotions and states of being without getting preachy. Two books with affairs and neither person gets "caught" and the marriages stay together and everyone is complex and interesting and working from a standpoint of an individual human being, not a "wife, who should know better" or "the other man, who should be a cad" or the "cuckolded husband, who ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
First book read by Colwin. Liked it a lot. Felt Geraldine's constant wondering aout her place in life both real and sad, because she had such genuinely loving and/or appreciative people in her life and work (other than her parents). She had so many positive qualities that I wanted her to believe in. Her feelings about parenting and all the rest of her social circles'(read parents and husband's work friends) opposite opinions really resonated with me as I am watching my own son and his wife strug ...more
Catherine Egan
Nov 25, 2012 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 "marg
Aug 09, 2009 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
Oct 01, 2008 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
Jun 11, 2014 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.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seems like it would stray from Colwin's well-worn territory, but I was happy to find another entertaining heroine. Thoughtful dialogue, smart characters, dreamy New York setting. Set in the 70s I think? But written in the 80s. Hard to get a sense of the timing and state of civil rights, specifically, but the theme of racial identity through music is timeless.
Ayelet Waldman
She’s a wonderful writer, and it’s tragic that she died so young.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Being wistful is a burden. Having one stellar, unique experience- particularly in the flush of youth- will haunt you, or at the very least follow you around like a shadow for the rest of your life. It doesn't have to be dramatic; Geraldine Coleshares is introduced to us as a humdrum graduate student uninterested in completing her dissertation and decides to join a rock and roll troupe as the token white backup singer, a Shakette, and tours for two years.

Like other Laurie Colwin novels I have re
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy Laurie Colwin's writing; and was not disappointed here. Geraldine, the main character, is someone who is always questioning what she is doing and what she has done; she is always trying to examine her own life from the outside. I could really relate to this, and it made for a thoughtful narrative, told by Geraldine herself. Finding little aim and ambition in her life as a graduate student, Geraldine goes on tour as the only white backup singer for a couple of black rock'n'roll voc ...more
Daisy Sellas
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully poignant and, while older in age, seems sweeter with time, as the struggles of an average, hard-working, wistful woman seem even more prevalent today than when this book was first published, in a simpler age of no cell-phones or computers. Not what I was expecting, however- I believed it would be more of a saucy summer novel about the heroine's life on the road as a background singer, but I was pleasantly surprised by a book that made me appreciate the sacrifices made by my mother. L ...more
Roderick Wolfson
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I guess I just don't like Geraldine and her quest to find herself all that much, even while understanding that this was set at a time (1970s) when women were (perhaps) more than today struggling with creating balance between family and self-identity apart from their roles as spouse and mother. Colwin did create an interesting cast of support characters, and I appreciated the comic aspects.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Really did not like this book. What a whiner the main character, Geraldine, is! Grow up already! Plus there was supposed to be humor. I may have smiled once or twice at the most. All and all a big let down.
Nancy McKibben
Dec 22, 2012 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: reviewed, favorites, humor
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
Oct 19, 2016 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 those days are over [remember this phrase because we'll come back to it], and Geraldine must reinvent herself as t
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-fiction
When Laurie Colwin is at her best she is terrific. I really like her vibe. Her writing style is reminiscent of Alice Adams, one of my favorite novelists.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book at a used bookstore. I had read a short story (or maybe a book excerpt) of Laurie Colwin's many years ago and really loved it. Of course, I was only 20 at the time. Anyhow, this book was a disappointment but not so much that I quit it. It has a great idea for a plot line, but it tends to plod along. Also, it was hard to like the protagonist who played the little lost girl to the hilt. Yet in spite of her self-deprecating words about knowing nothing and not having an identit ...more
May 15, 2009 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
Reyna Eisenstark
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
A woman is a backup singer/dancer in a girl group for a bunch of years, which is her true calling, and then she settles down to normal life (husband, kid) and keeps trying to get that feeling back.

This book was a total delight and my description does it no justice. I could say "quirky" but only because it's hard to pin down. I wouldn't say the main character is entirely likable either, but this is totally fine. There are so many wonderful little details in this book. Plus I think it's a book onl
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
Jul 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I grumped and hurrumphed my way through the first 50 pages or so of this book, keeping a running tally of times that I felt the book was too shallow, too neat, the main character to easily given new adventures. But all at once I fell in love. I'm not sure what it was exactly, probably something about the tremendous good will with which the author was clearly writing. I adored this and look forward to reading more Colwin.
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Really 3.5 Stars. Colwin wrote one of my all-time favorite books "A Big Storm Knocked It Over" so the bar was set really high for this book, for better or worse. And I did really enjoy it, but I just couldn't get the main character's choices - I never really 'got' the main character other than she had had a clearly oppressive childhood and couldn't really find her way.

But it's a great book and worth reading. It just wasn't totally my cup of tea characterization-wise.
Deb Oestreicher
Feb 02, 2016 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.
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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.

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36 likes · 12 comments
“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.”
“To be effortlessly yourself is a blessing, an ambrosia. It is like a few tiny little puffs of opium which lift you ever so slightly off the hard surface of the world.” 2 likes
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