Very occasionally you pick up a book, start to read it and instantly know you’re discovering something very special, something you have a feeling will be big…huge even. You know people will start to talk about it, word will get round, the issues will be debated.
Goodbye for Now is such a novel. A contemporary love story for our technological age but, at its heart, the timeless issues of love, death and grief.
Sam Elling is a computer programmer who is sacked from his job at an online dating company for creating such a successful programme that users find their perfect match too quickly. A happy result of the programme is he finds love himself in the form of Meredith Maxwell. When Meredith’s grandmother dies, Sam tries to aid the grieving process by inventing a computer algorithm, using previous emails and video chats, to replicate their conversations. He has found a way to help people through their grief and, once Meredith gains comfort from being able to ‘talk’ to her grandmother again, they decide to share this technology with others, creating a business, RePose. But does RePose offer help in the grieving process or does it just delay and interfere with the normal emotions of the bereaved?
It all sounds too far-fetched, doesn’t it, but the author, Laurie Frankel, explains the technology in such a straightforward way that it all seems very plausible. And why not? We have phones which can speak to us and answer our questions and, only recently, the world watched Freddie Mercury, on huge video screens, interact with thousands of people at the Olympic closing ceremony. What if the technology was there to interpret texts, chats, emails and synch them in such a way that it would appear ‘real’ after death? Would we use it?
I lost my own father last year and, although I have been sad, I have coped with his death quite well, I think. However I know my mother, after 50 years of marriage, desperately misses him and would just love to have a normal conversation with him again. People cope with their grief by looking at old photos, listening to shared music, reading old letters. In this book, Laurie Frankel, who writes with humour and great tenderness, with an amazing talent for dialogue, gives us much food for thought on what are the consequences of taking social networking to another level.
The film rights for this book have already been snapped up and I can see why as it is as gripping and emotionally-charged as One Day by David Nicholls. It is published today, 16 August, in the UK and I predict it will be climbing the best-seller charts very quickly.
‘Goodbye for Now’ is published by Headline Review, who sent me this copy to review.