Linda Davis is a middle-aged woman whose whole adult life was centered on her husband, Dan, and their only child, Molly. It is a time for change; not only is her daughter leaving for college, but her favorite craft store is closing, a place that brought together a community of women who love to quilt. As Linda is getting ready to embark on the next chapter of her life, her mind is filled with thoughts of her daughter's future and her own future at home with Dan. She has two voids to fill, and while Molly's departure is by far the bigger one, the closure of the shop also represents the end of something Linda has cherished and loved over the years.
A road trip to send Molly off to college seems like a better idea than dropping her off at the airport, which is far too impersonal. Leaving Dan and the beloved dog at home, Linda and Molly embark together on the long drive to the east coast, with iPods to keep them busy, as well as Linda's work-in-progress: a quilt she's making especially for Molly, constructed with pieces of fabric that represent many different milestones from Molly's past.
As they drive from town to town, Linda mulls over Molly's childhood and the memories that will soon fade with time, but will be kept alive in Linda's mind and in the quilt. There was her christening, piano lessons, family trips, and many other milestones that will be forever memorialized. But along with these happy and cherished memories, Linda is also angry about Molly's constant need to phone her boyfriend, Travis --- Molly's voice lights up as soon as he calls her, and it's by this measure that Linda notices the hands of time slipping away, as the calls become less and less frequent. To Linda's relief, she's glad they're about to end their high school romance. Molly doesn't need the distractions of a boyfriend if she's going to move on to college and adulthood --- a future Linda never had because she chose to be a stay-at-home mother.
THE GOODBYE QUILT is not just about the physical journey to the east coast that the two make together, but about Linda's coming to grips with changes in her life and the effort she makes to accept them. Susan Wiggs creates an honest portrayal of a woman's fears and anxieties about a future for which she is not ready. Linda looks at her own life and uses that as a basis for what she wants for Molly. Ultimately, whose dreams are these: Molly's or Linda's? THE GOODBYE QUILT is a journey that many women will take, or have already taken, with their children, watching them grow up and reluctantly letting them go.
I cried when I came to the last page. If someone like me, without children, could feel so much for the characters in a book such as this, I can imagine that a woman with kids will truly appreciate this story. For those of you who have gone through the "empty nest" or are about to and are dreading it, THE GOODBYE QUILT will ring true. It depicts the emotional tug of war inside the heart of a mother who is about to give up her only child and let her go off into the big world, alone.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on March 29, 2011
The Goodbye Quilt