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My Review of Good-Bye and Amen by Beth Gutcheon

As the sequel to Leeway Cottage, Good-Bye and Amen is the continuing drama about the Moss family. The story is still a fascinating stand-alone novel even if you haven't read Beth Gutcheon's first tale about this captivating New England family.

Good-Bye and Amen is written in a unique format and recounts how three siblings reunite at their family summer home in Maine to decide how to divide up their parents' estate. The story begins with the Moss children, now adults, going through their parents' possessions following Laurus and Sydney Moss's death. The marriage of well to do American Sydney Brant to talented pianist Laurus was a mystery to most people who knew them but especially to their children. Both their parents influenced the three children but their domineering mother was the one with the greatest influence on how they grew up.

Pressed by their own families to get their fair share of their inheritance, the siblings struggle with how to reasonably divide up what their parents left them while keeping their love for each other intact. This "lottery" of their inheritance also brings the siblings together as a way of saying goodbye to their parents.

Things get off on the wrong foot when the son, Jimmy, takes the baby grand piano that middle sister, Monica, wanted very much. Jimmy is the youngest and for years was off on his own, said to be involved with drugs, but has now settled down with a respectable job making computer games and living in California with his wife Janice. Surprisingly, Jimmy wants to be fair with his sisters, even though he isn't yet sure he wants to have a relationship with them again. This trip is one in which he decides they may all learn more about each other and come away better off in the end.

Eleanor Applegate, the eldest Moss child, is well mannered and very secure in her marriage to Bobby, a banker with a laid-back manner about him. Eleanor is not as much interested in what she can get for herself but rather for her children.

Middle child, Monica, is married to Norman Faithful, who just may not live up to his name. He is a pompous minister from a rather dubious background and is basically unpopular with the rest of the clan. Monica herself wants whatever she can get. Her desire to possess so much may be a substitute for what she is lacking in her troubled marriage. Although Monica is loyal to Norman, even after he quit his law practice to take up the ministry, it is easy to see that he is deeply disturbed and not what Monica thought he was when they married.

As mentioned, the story is told in a unique format using short sections conveyed by the characters in the story. They each tell about what is going on from their own point of view and when you then read the next part told by another character, one can see that everyone may have a difference of opinion on what is really going on. This way of writing makes the reading of Good-Bye and Amen an extraordinary and outstanding book to read as it brings you right into the family. It makes you wish you were in that house in Maine with them so you could share your idea of what is going on.

Who will get what is a main part of the story as every item, no matter large or small, plays an important role as it reflects bitterness and hard feelings that Eleanor, Monica, Jimmy and their families feel toward one another. The final decision of dividing the actual home into thirds leads to the outcome of where this family will go from here and what it will mean for their family and generations to come.

The story is open and amusing and memorable. The middle section of the book contains photographs of the family and that adds to the reader really seeing "the whole picture" of the Moss family.

Submitted by Karen Haney, July, 2008