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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Goodbye for Now


Goodbye for Now, the new Laurie Frankel novel, is a movie waiting to happen, the kind of story that Hollywood types hope will become the next When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle.  The plot is certainly an intriguing one.  Sam Elling is a young man who finds it difficult to get a first-date, much less a second one.  The great irony of his life is that Sam is a computer geek employed by a Seattle computer dating service to help others find their “soul mates.”  The irony of his love life does not escape him, so Sam decides to use his programming skills to identify his perfect match – on the first try.  The program he invents works so perfectly that the company’s profits take a hit because repeat customers become a thing of the past.  No longer an asset to his employer, Sam loses his job, but not before having found his dream girl, co-worker Meredith Maxwell, whom he immediately dubs “Merde.”

Still out of work, Sam has plenty of time to spare when Meredith’s grandmother dies suddenly.  Seeing how hard she takes her grandmother’s loss, he writes a program that will sort through their hundreds of emails, video chats, and texts to help him create what turns out to be an almost magical algorithm.  That algorithm rearranges these communications from the past into new, real-time mixes that allow Meredith and her grandmother to exchange emails and enjoy video chats as if the old lady were still in Florida for the winter – not dead and buried.

Sam and Meredith, along with a rather colorful cousin of Meredith’s, recognizing a unique opportunity to go into business for themselves, are soon offering Sam’s creation to the general public.  As the business grows quietly and steadily, the three are optimistic about their future and proud of what they offer their grieving customers.  Things get more complicated, however, when word of their venture spreads and a few newspapers start calling.  Soon, newspapers from around the world are writing about them, CNN is talking about them, and prominent religious leaders are questioning the morality of what they are selling at this company called RePose.

Laura Frankel
Is easing the immediate pain of a grieving person really a good thing if it just prolongs the grieving process and makes it more difficult than it would have been otherwise?  Should the number of times a customer can use the RePose software be limited?  Is RePose making it impossible for users ever to move on with the rest of their lives?  Do dead people still have the right to privacy?  These are just a few of the issues with which RePose must grapple.  But, Goodbye for Now is also Sam and Meredith’s love story - and that part of the story is about to get complicated.

This is a tearjerker, an emotional rollercoaster, a sci-fi comedy - all of these things.  But despite all its tugging at the heartstrings, Goodbye for Now never quite works for me.  Because I found the characters to be more of the sit-com type than of the real-world variety, I was never able to get emotionally invested in any of them long enough to care about them.  The dialogue is snappy, funny, even touching, but never quite real– Sam and his friends are likable, if not quite believable.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

Goodbye for Now Book Trailer:

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