Monday, February 18, 2013
Book Review: Goodbye Emily by Michael Murphy
Michael Murphy's Goodbye Emily is an homage to friendship and the Woodstock Nation. Part road trip, part buddy book, all interesting, Goodbye Emily takes the reader back in time when Sparky, the main character, decides to fulfill a promise he made to his wife and two male friends to return to Max Yasgur's farm outside Bethel, NY, where the Woodstock concert took place.
Emily was Sparky's wife, once a carefree young girl he met at Woodstock. Dead two years from cancer when the book opens, Sparky has yet to deal with his grief. He suffers from broken heart syndrome, a real problem. His doctor tells him to make a list of all the things he has to address in order to return to his normal life and leave grief and drink behind. The top item on the list is Emily, whose ashes remain in an urn on the coffee table.
Sparky realizes he has more than Emily's loss to deal with. He wonders why his former best friend Buck, another of the Woodstock boys, skipped his wife's funeral. After confronting his friend, he learns that the third member of the trio, Josh, suffers from Alzheimer's and lives in assisted living. They visit Josh. Sparky and Buck sing some songs the trio sang when they were a garage band, the Buck Naked Band. Josh, who is non-verbal, begins singing along with them. Sparky thinks that if he can reach Josh through music he can bring a semblance of quality of life back to his friend.
One thing leads to another. Before Sparky realizes what he is doing, Buck has repainted Emily's van as a peace mobile, Sparky and Buck have kidnapped Josh from his residence, and the trio is on the run from the law. All they want to do is return to Woodstock and scatter Emily's ashes.
Secondary characters, like Sparky's daughter Cloe and her boyfriend who happens to be Sparky's doctor, add color to the story. All are well drawn and jump off the page. Minor characters arrive and leave with a trail of interesting color. The plot is tight. The road trip provides a strong narrative device to bring an odd cast of characters together.
A quick, rewarding Baby Boomer novel, I encourage you to pick up the book on Amazon, where it's available as a trade paperback or on Kindle.