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Monday, October 15, 2012

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel
Published by Doubleday ISBN 978-0-385-53618-9
Hardcover, $25.95

When Sam Elling creates an algorithm for the internet dating company that employs him that matches people with their soul mates, two things happen: he gets fired and he meets his soul mate.

The owner of the internet dating company decides that people actually finding their soul mates would end his company, which relies on people continuing to search for that perfect person, so he fires Sam.

Sam's algorithm matches him with Meredith, who works in the company's marketing department. We watch as they fall in love and as Sam searches for his next career move. Then Meredith's beloved grandmother dies suddenly, and Meredith is bereft. She spent a lot of time with her grandmother, and all she wants is to talk to her again.

Sam can't stand to see Meredith so sad, and he comes up with a crazy idea. He creates an algorithm that  goes through the deceased person's emails, video chats and social network messages that allows the deceased person to communicate with loved ones left behind. The caveat: they can only say things that they have actually said in the past, so it is essentially having the same conversations over and over.

Initially he does just to make Meredith feel better and it does. But Meredith thinks others could use it to make them feel better too. She convinces Sam to start a business, and Meredith's cousin Dash joins them.

Their first customer is Eduardo, whose brother died suddenly in an accident. Eduardo tells his brother that the brother is dead in their first chat, and Sam has found a bug; the dead loved one can't understand that he is dead. The first thing rule has become "Don't tell your loved one he/she is dead", and every single person breaks the rule.

The business takes off, and they meet many kind, loving and sad people. Meredith handles the people part of it, Sam the tech part. Things go well, until they get some bad publicity. Questions are raised about the ethics of doing this, and whether they are profiting from other's people tragedies.

I read this remarkable book on a plane and I flew through it. A tragedy occurs in the last third of the book, and although it is one that a careful reader will see coming, it is still devastating. I sobbed and read through tears.

Frankel has written a novel that asks you to question how much technology is too much, and I guarantee that you will be much more conscious of your social media and email communication after reading it. She has taken something that seems at first so fantastical, yet makes you believe it is possible.

The end of the story reinforces your faith in humanity, and the importance of the human connections we make. Facebook friends are nice, but when the chips are down, it is the actual, physical relationships we create with each other that sustain us.

I loved the characters, and the story is just beautiful. We have all faced loss; Frankel takes that universal experience and the desire to keep our loved ones with us forever and touches your heart with her moving, emotional novel.

rating 5 of 5

If you liked Lee Woodruff's Those We Love Most, you'll like Goodbye for Now

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