Seventeen-year-old Rhea Farrell carries the scars of a childhood accident in which she lost her arm. But she also carries scars that aren’t so visible–the loss of a mother she hardly remembers, the impact of her father’s drinking, and her confusion and pain around accepting her sexuality.
When Rhea runs away, she turns to the person she always wished she could confide in–her mother. And just like she used to do as a little girl, Rhea starts to write her letters–to tell her things she can’t tell anyone else, to share her fears, to ask for help. Rhea’s journey on the streets of New York brings her deeper into her mother’s past where she uncovers buried family secrets. And as she finds out more about the woman her mother truly was, Rhea also discovers just what kind of woman she wants to be.
“It’s a powerhouse of emotion. My heart is now stretched into new shapes.”–Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Stonewall Award-winning author of Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
I received this book from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
How Many Letters Are in Goodbye? is about Rhea Farrell and mission on finding out who her mom really was. This is clear in the beginning but as we go on through the story, it starts changing and instead of Rhea’s main goal being to find out the person her mom was, she’s trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to be. After running away from home, Rhea’s alone in New York and finds comfort by writing letters to her mom.
What first got me interested in this book was that it was completely in the form of letters. Rhea writes her experiences and days as if it were a diary. She and her dad used to write to her mom -who died when she was little, but they stopped suddenly one day.
This book focuses on everything. It’s takes you on a journey and makes you question even the small things. There are many people Rhea meets on the way and I think that each one played a different part in her experience. Without meaning to, they helped her grow. There were very few nice moments in this book. I’d go as far as to say that it was pretty depressing and if I were in a different time of my life, it would have affected me greatly, but I made it through okay.
I didn’t like this book when I started. Nothing interesting was happening and I found it almost boring. There was a moment, I can remember it’s about 40% through the book when I started liking it a lot. I wanted to finish it immediately but my eyes started drooping.
I noticed little things, how Rhea would act almost like a child at some points, then I remembered that with her mom dying when she was three and her dad drinking so much, she had to grow up pretty early. Many of the letters to her mom are signed differently. Here are a few examples:
- Your Loving Daughter
- Your Daughter
- ‘No signature’
I thought that maybe her emotions were all over the place but I think it was more of a ‘mood’ she was in. If she felt like signing a certain way, she would.
The last quarter of this book took me on a roller coaster ride and dangled at the top and I was waiting for the drop to come…and oh but it did. Once everything unfolded, there was nothing rushed about it. The pace remained the same. The writing style of this book, the way the story was told, it was beautiful.
“-there are no perfect moments, and I know [she’s] right. -there are only moments of vulnerability and courage and honesty and in each and every moment we need to choose, over and over, what kind of person we want to be.”
There was closure at the end. Which I think is a good thing. Closure for Rhea, and for me as the reader as well. I didn’t have any lingering questions. They were all answered.
I read the poem ‘Fear’ by Raymond Carver and thought that I should note it down here for you guys. It’s not like it has any major significance in the story but it’s mentioned and I thought it was worth checking out.
Fear of seeing a police car pull into the drive.
Fear of falling asleep at night.
Fear of not falling asleep.
Fear of the past rising up.
Fear of the present taking flight.
Fear of the telephone that rings in the dead of night.
Fear of electrical storms.
Fear of the cleaning woman who has a spot on her cheek!
Fear of dogs I’ve been told won’t bite.
Fear of anxiety!
Fear of having to identify the body of a dead friend.
Fear of running out of money.
Fear of having too much, though people will not believe this.
Fear of psychological profiles.
Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else.
Fear of my children’s handwriting on envelopes.
Fear they’ll die before I do, and I’ll feel guilty.
Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.
Fear of confusion.
Fear this day will end on an unhappy note.
Fear of waking up to find you gone.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love.
Fear of death.
Fear of living too long.
Fear of death.
I’ve said that.
Trigger Warnings: Mentions (as well as thoughts and attempts) of suicide, sexual abuse, physical abuse, homophobia
Read: 22 February 2016
Publication Date: 8 March 2016
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Yvonne Cassidy