Skip to main content

Bye, Baby


Bye, Baby

Once upon a time, Billie West and Cassie Barnwell were inseparable. Teenage girls growing up in Red Hook, New York, they dreamed of escaping their small town and disappointing families for New York City. They planned to live like their favorite romantic comedy leads, indulging in expensive takeout, mediocre dates and wine-fueled nights on their rooftop. But that all changed when Cassie finally entered the elite, privileged circle of Harvard graduates and trust-fund babies she long idolized. And then came Grant, her dreamboat husband with a bank account that screamed “old money.” Just like that, Billie was discarded.

Now Cassie has a gorgeous baby girl, a trendy boutique known for its criminally expensive cocktail attire, and a thriving social media presence one step below the label of “luxury influencer.” And Billie has…an entire thread of unread and unanswered messages to her former best friend.

"[Lovering] delivers a skewering, insightful look into the interior of a toxic female friendship and what happens when lifelong loyalties are tested or broken completely."

Despite her own exciting, lucrative job as a high-end travel agent, Billie longs for the closeness she once felt with Cassie --- the kind of can’t sleep, can’t eat, breathless camaraderie that seems to only happen in your youth. Now at 35, most of Billie’s friends have fallen by the wayside, besotted with their perfect, snuggly babies and their well-meaning but helpless husbands. Billie, who once watched as her single mother disappeared day by day to a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s, has never wanted kids or anything more than partnership…and her best friend by her side. So as Billie faces yet another lonely night, she thinks Why not try again? and texts Cassie. She is shocked to see that Cassie has agreed to grab a glass of wine together. Could this be her last chance to reclaim her friendship and rediscover the closeness they once shared?

However, Billie’s devotion to Cassie isn’t entirely wholesome. While their “opposite sides of the track” friendship was probably doomed from the start, there is one singular event that defined their relationship: a crime for which neither of them ever took the blame. Cassie, who wants for nothing and therefore has everything to lose, knows that rekindling their friendship means acknowledging that small-town, blue-collar, desperate side of herself that she has worked endlessly to bury. So Billie’s cloying attempts to rekindle their friendship aren’t just annoying or smothering, they’re a threat.

On the night of her birthday, Cassie, whether intentionally or subconsciously, draws a sharp line in the sand. After telling Billie that she was taking it easy for her birthday, she threw an extravagant party and shared it on Instagram for all of her 48,000 followers to see…especially one follower in particular. Tired of feeling condescended to or patronized, and even more tired of Cassie ignoring the depths of their friendship, Billie takes matters (read: Cassie’s baby) into her own hands. And for the next five hours, Cassie knows what it means to be lost, forgotten and treated cruelly.

BYE, BABY is no murder mystery or psychological thriller, so what happens next isn’t as ripped-from-the-headlines as readers may expect from Carola Lovering. But even so, she delivers a skewering, insightful look into the interior of a toxic female friendship and what happens when lifelong loyalties are tested or broken completely. Neither Cassie nor Billie is entirely innocent or entirely guilty. Only one thing is certain: their friendship, forged and maintained by life-altering crimes, won’t be put down easily.

It would be easy to say that neither Billie nor Cassie is likable, but it’s more honest to comment on how disturbingly relatable each woman is. After all, who among us hasn’t craved the closeness of a friendship that has ended or searched a former friend’s Instagram late at night? And who, like Cassie, hasn’t longed to shed their childhood self and insecurities, only to emerge gorgeous and popular? Of course, we don’t all become vicious backstabbers or kidnappers, but that’s where Lovering’s imagination comes in, crafting propulsive turns, painful conversations and ugly, serious truths.

That said, BYE, BABY doesn’t quite live up to the standard of Lovering’s previous novels, where the stakes were high and the risks were higher. Although she crafts two truly interesting and compelling characters, there’s no “aha” moment to be found here or jaw-dropping final twist that makes you reconsider everything you just read. Still, there’s plenty to discuss and engage with in this one --- from the toxicity of social media to the trappings of wealth --- and I look forward to seeing what Lovering has in store for us next.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on March 22, 2024

Bye, Baby
by Carola Lovering