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Hello Goodbye

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  788 ratings  ·  142 reviews
In a single week, a family leaves behind its past and a daughter awakens to the future in Emily Chenoweth’s intimate and beautifully crafted debut novel.

In the winter of 1990, Helen Hansen – counselor, wife, and mother in the prime of her life – is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The following August, Helen, her husband, Elliott, and their daughter, Abby, a fresh
Paperback, 273 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published May 5th 2009)
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Average rating 3.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  788 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Liberty Abbott-Sylvester
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Liberty by: Bookshelf Bitches August Read
I honestly don't know where to begin. This book was a very emotional read for me. I wouldn't say the book is full of sad moments, it's not. I think it's because my personal life is experiencing a similar situation. This book made me cry. It made me laugh. It made me shake my head. I connected with each and every character presented. In my opinion, this book was real. It was raw. It was fantastic.

It tells the story of Elliott, Helen and Abby. Helen, the mother has been diagnosed with a terminal b
Robin Rountree
There wasn't anything I didn't like about this book...but I just don't think it will stick with me. Well written characters, especially the teenage daughter. However, this is a book more about a weekend and how a terminal illness effects the people involved...not a lot of "plot". ...more
Jun 15, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not enjoy this book. This was a book I started reading with the hopes of it getting better and by the time i was halfway through it I wanted it to be over. I found it very slow moving with little hills throughout. something small would happen and then you would be back to mundane everyday living...something small...back to everyday living, etc. The positive in this book is I do think it did well touching on the characters feelings about death and showing how each dealt with it. However, I ...more
Wendy T
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such a sad but beautiful story about how illness effects one family.
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-books
Emily Chenoweth’s debut novel Hello Goodbye was inspired by the author’s life. Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour when Chenoweth was in her first year of college. Instead of writing a memoir, though, the author decided to use her experiences as fodder for a work of fiction because she could “explore the feelings and experiences that I did remember, but I could also craft a story that had a different arc than my own.”

And what a story it is.

The novel begins with Helen Hansen returning fr
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
Helen returns back one morning from a refreshing run, looking forward to her day, only to get a seizure. This sends her off to plenty of hospital tests after which it is determined that Helen has inoperable brain cancer. The doctors tells her husband, Elliot, that she has 9 months, but Helen doesn't know that yet***, since it's her hope that's holding her so far. With just 3 months left out of the original estimated 9, Elliot plans to spend their wedding anniversary at the Presidential hotel in ...more
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel received good reviews, and was, indeed, a solid effort. It contains some lovely passages and nicely identifies some truths.

However, overall the novel is trapped somewhere between an awkward young adult novel and an unsatisfying novel for adults about a family's grief. For as many passages that pleased there were an equal number that caused a grimace ("the rustling leaves said, Hush, hush," and "In her chest, a box opened and something fell out").

The contrast between the very good ver
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would give this book ten stars if I could. Beautifully written, with gorgeous prose and deep emotion, it tells the tale of a woman with terminal brain cancer, and the struggle of her family to spend their last days together. A farewell gathering of old friends, wrapped up in the guise of an anniversary party, takes center stage as each person who knows and loves Helen says their goodbyes. Her husband and daughter each connect to Helen in their own way, and the emotion is so heartfelt and real. ...more
If it weren't for the emotionally difficult subject matter of this book, I would classify it as breezy summer reading. The author didn't delve deeply into any of the characters. Usually, I read every word in a book and often go back to re-read entire passages. I found myself skimming over entire pages and feeling like I hadn't missed a thing. ...more
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had read such good reviews of this book, but was disappointed. It started out well, but then the pace of the book became so slow. It did not hold my interest, and the subject matter was very depressing.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story that's told in alternating voices from inside the heads of three members of a family, Helen, Elliott, and Abby - wife, husband, daughter. The mother begins, with the well described explosive attack inside her head that turns out to be brain cancer. Immediately the story jumps to six months later when the family takes a vacation trip to New Hampshire where they'll celebrate among old friends their 20th wedding anniversary. It is during the events of that week that the characters' relation ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Helen gets back from a run and while making coffee has a seizure, she is diagnosed with brain cancer. The book is told from the viewpoints of Helen, her husband Elliot, and her college aged daughter Abby. Elliot plans a week vacation at a historic beautiful hotel in New Hampshire to spend quality family time as well as invites some of their closest friends as both an anniversary party and a way for them all to be able to say goodbye to Helen.

Having gone through a similar experience at the same
Wendy Stockard
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had no expectations, and it finished well. The prose was meandering, however, and I didn't connect with any of the characters. The author did a lovely job of showing the vulnerabilities and awkwardness of each character, and it should have warmed me. I guess I am not in the right mindspace to read about a dying mother and the legacy of love she is leaving. I might revisit it at another time. ...more
Margaret Hanson
Nov 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Yikes. I always like to leave a short review with the books I dislike to give some reasons why. Needless to say, this book was a mess. If anyone has read it you’ll agree. This writer needs an editor BAD.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I've read far worse books this summer. I'd give it three and a half it that was available to me. Easy to read. Interesting characters. Just felt ordinary. ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well written & very sad.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I wish I could give this one 3.5. I usually give 4 stars to books I really love but aren't all-time favorites, but 3 stars I give to books that were "good". This one isn't good enough in plot that I would recommend it, but it's better than good. The best thing about this book is the writing. The author gives amazing descriptions, and makes the reader really feel what the characters are going through. That in itself is very enjoyable as a reader. But the plot left a bit to be desired for me at th ...more
Marnie Kaplan
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is something about the cover of this novel that perfectly matches the style of the writing. I think it is the feather that the title sits on. There is something feathery about the style of this novel. It is incredibly slow-paced, in the sense that the whole novel (273 pages) takes place over a short period of time. First we have the diagnosis of the protagonist with a brain tumor. Then we have an amount of days resembling a week in the August that follows. While the story begins with Helen ...more
Stephanie Holcomb
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm surprised the overall rating of this book isn't higher. It's well written, and flows beautifully, but while a little flawed (I'll get into that in a minute), I enjoyed spending my time with it.

One of my major complaints in novels, particularly novels that are best sellers and ones people gush all over about (The Notebook, anyone?) is that every character is similar, everyone is beautiful and perfect, and you have no surprises, no hurdles, no conflict.

My 2011 started out badly--I had a car a
Mindy Conde
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book - it had the potential to be a long and depressing story filled with repetition of the pain of grief. However, Chenoweth exceeded my expectations and offered a novel that was so sincere and realistic that it often had me crying. This is certainly going to be a book I remember to offer friends going through the loss of a loved one. The best part about this book is that it covers different types of grieving - by switching perspectives between ...more
Sep 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has dealt with cancer in a family member or close friend.
Recommended to Deana by: Bookshelf Bitches
Shelves: read-library, 2011, cancer
This is the story of how the members of a small family cope with the fact that the mother/wife is diagnosed with brain cancer, as well as a sort of coming-of-age of the teenaged daughter. With regard to both of those major life occurrences, the book is extremely well written. The moods conveyed are appropriate, and the author is sure to show both the bad and the good.

I didn't care for the way the book was written -- in third person with the perspective changing each chapter. Normally I don't min
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grown-ups
Recommended to Amy by: happy accident
lovely and surprising.
There was a moment in the movie "Shadowlands" when a dying Deborah Winger tells Anthony Hopkins (as her husband C.S. Lewis) that the joy that they grab hold to in the present will make her future absence even more painful, but that her future absence is what makes THIS moment, this NOW, so beautiful and joyful.
This book is a lovely few days in a family's retreat in New England to ostensibly celebrate an anniversary with their friends... it would be a subtle, well-observed t
Mary Lou
Oct 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2011
Have you ever imagine how heavy the duty would be for a man when his wife is about to leave this beautiful world? We can never be able to feel the pressure he has inside.The protagonist, Elliot, who attempts to keep best smile and comfort toward his wife. Hellen, the wife of Elliot, encounters an illness of a tumor inside her brain. Life becomes a risk to her in which she can leave in any time. He uses his best ability and strength to protect his wife and his daughter. Although his self-esteem w ...more
May 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK, so I know a little of the backstory here, even though it's fiction. I recognize some of the characters' quirks. But regardless, this is an absolutely FANTASTIC book.

I was invested from the first page. And that's saying ALOT, since I'm so used to reading for analysis, not for pleasure.

I read the entire book over two days, whenever I could.

I could relate to being Abby. I could relate to the relationship between Abby and her parents and their eccentric friends. There's just something about t
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Elizabeth Berg
A very good read. This is Emily Chenoweth's first novel, and I hope she will write many more. It reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Berg's novels. There is lots of detail in the everyday things, lots about relationships, too.

It is the story of a woman, Helen, dying of a brain tumor. She, her husband, and their 18-year-old daughter invite the couple's friends to celebrate their 20th anniversary at a New Hampshire resort, but it's really a time to say good-bye to Helen. A particularly poignant part of
Jun 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sweet and smartly written book about the cycle of life; beginnings and endings. This was the author's first novel and one containing deep truths about grief, aging, love and uncertainties. It tells the story about a woman in her mid 40's who is dying of brain cancer. To mark her upcoming 20th anniversary-her husband arranges for a week-long stay at a resort in the mountains of NH that sounds exactly like the MT Washington Hotel. He also arranges for 6 friends to come and celebrate with them ov ...more
Courtney Gontz
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was very disappointed with the book. When I read the plot, I had some high expectations. It started off slow, and I hoped and prayed that it would pick up....but it didn't. There was a lot of unnecessary flashes between the past and present, which became a bit confusing at times. I also found myself getting highly agitated at the daughter for looking for love while on what could be the last vacation her mother will ever be going on. I found her selfish and wanted to slap her and ask her how sh ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
While this book doesn't neatly wrap up in a tidy package, it is a very human story. The writer does a very good job of creating a host of characters, most of whom are made real by their honest (and haphazard) attempts to grapple with terminal illness. There were times when I wanted to smack Elliot and Abby for their seeming selfish attitudes; the voice of Helen was fragile and precious, and I wish the reader were given more chances to hear the story from her perspective.
This story has many laye
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Emily Chenoweth is a former fiction editor of Publishers Weekly. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Bookforum, and People, among other publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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