The first thing I did after finishing Goodbye Days at 5am was plot how to connect with Jeffrey Zentner so that we can arrange a school visit for next year. Yes, Goodbye Days was that good. And after staying up past my bedtime months ago to read The Serpent King, it was apparent that Zentner is a skilled author that focuses his creativity on character-driven novels that speak to readers on a deeper level. This is the case with his newest, Goodbye Days where Carver feels like he has blood on his hands after texting his friends as they drove in a car, knowing that they’d likely text back while driving said car, and were killed when they crashed with a half-written text in the queue of the phone. In an instant, Carver lost his three best friends, the Sauce Crew.
Memorable character: The way Zentner fleshes out each of the deceased characters in flashbacks and the titled “goodbye days” that happen makes each an essential character, even in the afterlife. And while Carver is the main character, Blake’s grandmother has to be the most memorable. Blake, one of the friends in the car, was being raised by his grandmother who moved him from his dysfunctional home to raise him where they could go “bad fishing” and watch movies, garden and chow down at a local restaurant on the weekend. Her sadness is palpable and she has the outlandish idea to have a goodbye day, a day she couldn’t have with Blake. Using Carver to share the details that only he knew, while she shared with Carver the things he didn’t know about his friend, they could both say goodbye. But it’s when readers discover something that wasn’t foreshadowed and a very real conversation occurs that tears run. And that leads to one of my favorite quotes in the book.
Memorable quote: “Funny how people move through this world leaving little pieces of their story with the people they meet, for them to carry. Makes you wonder what’d happen if all those people put their puzzle pieces together.” Isn’t that a wonderful thought to have? What pieces does each person who knows you hold and how would that puzzle look all put together? It’s these precise tidbits in this book and his first that are endearing.
Memorable scene: Just like many of scenes that come together to create the book there are too many to really pick a favorite, but one of the most memorable was certainly when Carver shows up at Thurgood nee Mars’ home where he lived with his father, whose position as a judge makes Carver sweat. He knew this goodbye day was going to be very different from the others. And that moment when he asks Carver to leave the bowl on the counter… oh, you just wait until you get to it!
The book is one feel after another: swirling and circulating around with an electricity in the writing and characters. It’s important and sends a message, but it’s also about the bond of friendship. Expectations. Who we are. Almost too much to explore in one book, yet Zentner masterfully flashes back to capture it all while following Carver’s journey in the present. A must-read.