Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Goodbye Without Leaving

Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin
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really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, humor, reviewed
Recommended to Nancy by: I read it because I love Laurie Colwin, the author
Recommended for: readers who like quirky heroines and old rock and roll standards
Read 3 times. Last read December 18, 2012.

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 her family, but she stays on the road for two years, until Ruby hits the big-time on her own and the group disbands. In the meantime, Johnny Miller, a successful attorney and rock and roll fan, has fallen for Geraldine as a Shakette, and continues to court her when she realizes that she can be a Shakette no longer.

Geraldine is in love with Johnny, but hesitates to marry him because he is all that her family has ever wanted for her. Finally she agrees to marry him after she finds another job. “I wanted a job that made me feel like a Shakette: marginal, hard-edged, and as if I hadn’t given in.”

This statement sums up central dilemma of Geraldine’s life, and although I sometimes wanted to shake her for her stubbornness, I also admired her determination not to “give in.” And she’s very funny. After she marries Johnny, she worries about their future children.

“‘What about Steve and Ginger’s children,’ I said. Steve was a colleague of Johnny’s, and Ginger, his repellent wife, was a city planner. Their two children, Jason and Samantha, were horribly ill behaved. They threw food, whined and had the posture of two almost empty sacks. They were the sort of children I liked least: scrawny and undercooked-looking, with what seemed to be some chronic nasal blockage that caused their mouths to hang open, giving them the aura of those very morons Johnny claimed to know something about. These gruesome children, who their parents claimed had the IQs of geniuses gave me new cause for insomnia. Supposing I produced a child like one of Steve and Ginger’s?”

Life goes on, and Geraldine copes in her own way. Little Franklin is born, and she falls newly in love with her baby. She finds a like-minded mother, “a private-looking person sitting alone, wearing leopard-print stretch pants and espadrilles. She was reading a fashion magazine and smoking a cigarette. . . Ann was a poet who lived with her husband, Winston, in what had once been a chic white loft. ‘Now it’s a chic white loft with handprints,’ she said.”

Read this book for its funny heroine and her stubborn ways - after all, her dilemma is one that we all share: how to incorporate the idealism of youth into the realities of adult life. If you’re an old rock and roll or twenties blues fan, then you will have the bonus of recognizing oldies like “Hi-Heel Sneakers” and “I’ve Sold My Heart to the Junkman,” which Geraldine croons to her baby as lullabies.


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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
Started Reading
December 18, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 22, 2012 – Shelved
December 22, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites
December 22, 2012 – Shelved as: humor
December 22, 2012 – Shelved as: reviewed

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