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Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel


Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel

Leesa Cross-Smith, the author of the critically acclaimed HALF-BLOWN ROSE, returns with GOODBYE EARL, a big-hearted novel of friendship, small-town solidarity and, as listeners of The Chicks will no doubt intuit, revenge.

Caroline Oppenheimer’s grandmother, Mimi, was only 37 when she was born; her mother was just 18. When Caroline’s mother turned 20, she determined that motherhood wasn’t for her, and Mimi took up the task of raising Caroline. But it was when Mimi started a knitting group at church with other local mothers that the real guiding lights of Caroline’s life entered the scene: Rosemarie, Ada and Kasey…or, simply put, RACK: the best sisterhood a girl could dream of.

"...a big-hearted novel of friendship, small-town solidarity and, as listeners of The Chicks will no doubt intuit, revenge.... I recommend you save this one for your next beach trip: the grit is enough to shock you, and the heart is enough to warm you."

Growing up in small-town Goldie, where the family names are eternal and the unchanging sights alternately cozy and stifling (depending on whether or not you plan to stay there forever), the girls have maintained a tight-knit group that saw them through first crushes, virginities, college acceptances, and eventually deaths, marriages and their own forays into motherhood. As they became women and moved to far-off cities, they remained in each other's lives through planned and surprise trips, Taylor Swift concerts and, of course, a never-ending group text chain. The only thing they haven’t done is reunite in Goldie. Until now.

The last time Rosemarie, Ada, Caroline and Kasey were all in Goldie was in 2004 when they were veering through the last rites of high school: prom, finals, graduation and the tearful goodbyes. But Kasey cut those goodbyes short when she left abruptly without ever looking back. Although Rosemarie also spread her wings for big adventures, Ada and Caroline stayed in Goldie, the only home they’d ever known or wanted to know, eventually starting their own business as event planners and bakers. Kasey has never returned to Goldie, not even for Caroline’s wedding to Maxwell Mason Foxberry III (Trey). It was the event of the season, and it effectively crowned Caroline princess of Goldie, as Trey’s family comes from a long line of slaveowners, tobacco farmers, and brewery, wine and distillery owners.

But now it's 2019, and Kasey is back for the wedding of Ada’s younger sister, Taylor. Nothing has changed between the friends, who are able to read one another at a glance, maintain two conversations at once without breaking stride, and confess their deepest secrets to one another. As women, though, they have definitely changed. Headstrong, bisexual Rosemarie is balancing a wife and a boyfriend, and an even darker secret that puts her time with RACK at risk. Picture-perfect Ada is struggling to hide her mother’s worsening pill and alcohol addiction. Kasey, now engaged to a perfect, trusting man, has been thrust back into the realm of her high school love. And Caroline, well…

As the person physically closest to Caroline, Ada has noticed that her best friend has not been happy for quite some time. As the wedding festivities kick off, it appears that Caroline is either moody or wasted --- certainly not the bright, sparkly self she has always been known to be. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that something is wrong, but it does take a woman who has been in her shoes to figure it out. Kasey, a longtime victim of her abusive stepfather’s verbal and physical attacks, senses that someone is hurting Caroline. One look at her smarmy, dismissive husband makes it pretty obvious who that person is. But confronting and potentially saving Caroline means that Kasey will have to dig into her own painful past, and the real reason she left Goldie 15 summers ago.

GOODBYE EARL is first and foremost a nostalgic, tender novel of devoted friendships. But what about the revenge? It comes a bit later, but much like the infamous song that inspired its title dictates, when an “Earl” hurts one of RACK’s most beloved members, “It didn't take 'em long to decide / That Earl had to die.” As Cross-Smith demonstrates, there are “Earls” everywhere. But there are also good, reliable men and, if you’re lucky, life-changing friendships with women who will stop at nothing to protect you.

While full of the author’s trademark prose --- sensitive and complex, deeply intimate and emotionally intricate --- the book can be confusing with its abundance of supporting characters and backstories. It reads like Sweet Magnolias meets Kill Bill, but the juxtaposition isn’t always successful, as it either cheapens the sweet moments or doesn’t quite match the seriousness of the bad ones. Still, I recommend you save this one for your next beach trip: the grit is enough to shock you, and the heart is enough to warm you.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on July 15, 2023

Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel
by Leesa Cross-Smith

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538707667
  • ISBN-13: 9781538707661