Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Goodbye Quilt

Ever read a book, and even though you recognize that it's "good," you're struck by the feeling that you're the totally wrong demographic for it?  That's what happened to me while reading The Goodbye Quilt, the latest women's fiction (in other words, not a romance in sight) offering from Susan Wiggs.  This book wasn't written for me.  Not by a long shot.  It was written as a bit of a love letter to all those Moms out there who get hit hard by Empty Nest Syndrome.

Linda Davis is getting reading to drive her only child, daughter Molly, across the country to attend a prestigious university.  Husband Dan isn't going.  Instead it will be Linda and Molly, on one last road trip.  Molly fretting about the boyfriend she's leaving behind in their tiny Wyoming town and the uncharted waters that await her.  Linda fretting about getting the memory quilt she's making for Molly done in time, and also about what she's going to do with her life now that her only child is leaving the nest.

This slim category-length story is the kind of gift hard cover book you give to your female friends, with children, who are of a certain age.  If you're the type of mother (or you know one) who struggled with letting go; who floundered a bit on the question, "What now?" after the kids leave home - this book is very likely going to speak to you.  Wiggs is a very capable writer, and there were moments of truth that shined through this story that will very likely resonant with the audience she's targeting.

That being said, readers shouldn't go into this tale expecting a big, meaty, angst-filled read.  That's not really what this is.  It's more a sweet story about moving on, letting go, and allowing your children to sink or swim on their own. 

I will say that I struggled for the majority of this book to wrap my mind around Linda.  No, I'm not a mother. So maybe I just don't "get" it - but more than once I wanted to reach through the pages, smack her upside the head and tell her, "Get a life!"  Her entire existence seems so wrapped up in being "Molly's Mom."  Almost like she abandoned being an individual person once she gave birth.  I "get" that this happens to some women, but it's just so.....annoying to read about it.  Luckily for me (and readers), Linda eventually seems to "get" it.  Also, the inclusion of her husband, Dan, helped tremendously.  He's largely off the page, not taking this road trip with mother and daughter, but when Linda talks to him on the phone?  He says all the things that I'm thinking in my head.  This ultimately seems to help Linda move forward.

The Goodbye Quilt won't be a book that will resonant with every female reader out there, but for many mothers and maybe even some daughters?  I think it will.  Again, it's a slim story, so readers shouldn't expect a dissertation of character development and back-story, but Wiggs hits on enough truths that in my mind's eye I see a lot of turned down page corners, and affixing of Post-It Notes to certain passages, for readers to go back to rediscover those moments again and again.  If you're in the target demographic?  I recommend buying an extra box of Kleenex.  You're likely going to need it.

Final Grade = B-


Jill said...

Thank you for putting into words what I felt just from reading the back cover copy.
When I saw the title was "The Goodbye Quilt" I thought someone might be dying of some tragic disease. Going to college is not good-bye for goodness sakes. It's a pretty normal step to adulthood for a lot of people in the modern world.
My mom would probably love this book. I'm an only child and she's never been very good at letting go.
I am the mother of a toddler and this is my idea of a horror novel ;-)
My role model is my mother-in-law. She was proud, happy, and very ready for each of her kids to go off to college. She recognized she had done her part and she was now in a supporting role, not the main attraction. Also, woman had life of her own to get back to.

Gail Dayton said...

I am the demographic of this book--and when my youngest left for college, I was ready to throw a party! (He moved back home for his last 2 years, & is still here--I'm thinking of encouraging him to look into the Navy...)(Hey, he has a MARINE engineering degree. He'd be perfect for them!)

But I had a good friend who was just lost when her youngest left home. Because she's someone who HATES being alone. She wants somebody around to talk to, where I love being by myself. She wasn't all wrapped up in being their mom--she just wanted company. (can we say extrovert?) So, everybody's different.

Still--the main job when raising a kid? It's to prepare them to go live on their own. Helicopter hovering doesn't help that.

Margaret Moore said...

I'm the target market for that book, and while I haven't read it (yet), I can buy that the road trip is a last chance for Linda to hold on to the past for just a little bit longer. She'll get a life when the road trip is over and the future sans kid begins, but for that road trip? It's all about nostalgia and the realization that their relationship is never going to be the same.

Lil Sis said...

Um yeah. I'm a new mom and I'm already looking forward to college for Lemon Drop! No, just kidding. But truly I don't "get" that empty next thing...but of course my kid is just a year. But please....if I get weepy when that day comes please smack me upside my head. Thank you. :)

Kristie (J) said...

Despite being an empty nester myself, this book holds no interest for me at all. First off, I WANTED my baby boy birds to leave the nest. Second, I don't care for Women's fiction. And last, I'm still disappointed that Susan Wiggs left romance behind.

Wendy said...

Jill: Your mother-in-law reminds me of my own mother.

Gail & Margaret: You both touch on things in your comments that are reflected in the story. No lie. It's almost eerie. Do you both have Wiggs on speed-dial? LOL

Lil' Sis: I think a little weepy is fine, and normal. I mean, Mom got weepy. But I also know that once we were out of the house her and Dad threw a party! LOL

KristieJ: I think her contemporary Lakeshore Chronicle books are still romance. I think? I'm still bummed she left behind historicals. I mean, I "get" it. The contemporary stuff has really taken off for her, and going by my library patrons, her popularity has really grown. Her agent and editors are going to want her to write more of whatever is bringing in the biggest sales figures.

But dang, I miss her writing historicals.

Whine, whine, whine. LOL

Margaret Moore said...

Nope, don't know Susan Wiggs. I just find it easy to put myself in Linda's shoes, I guess.

And Lil Sis? When my kids were little, having the house to myself seemed a blissful dream. Now that they're grown up and I have the house to myself much of the time? I miss them. Not all the time, certainly - mainly at dinner time. It's too quiet! :-)

nath said...

Great review, Wendy :) LOL, I bet I'd be part of the wrong demographic as well. In any case, I wasn't going to get it... I don't want her women's fiction, I want her contemporary romance books! Do you sometimes think the shift from romance to women's fiction is due to the author getting older, being at at different stage in life?

Wendy said...

Nath: I think that's part of it. From what I've briefly read, Wiggs wrote this book after her daughter left home, then stuffed it in a desk drawer. She pulled it out years later, did some tinkering, and here it is!

Margaret: Right now I think Lil' Sis would just settle for uneventful bed times with no unexpected meltdowns :)