By Adam Davies
Okay, gang. Get out your tissues and your dictionaries—as is tradition with a Davies novel.
Fair warning though: this book is an emotionally taxing read. It’s good! Very good. Buuut maybe don’t read it while struggling with major depression or family-related trauma. Or alcoholism. To each their own, of course, but this book is heavy. I’m glad I saved it all these years to read. My twenty-year-old self wouldn’t have been ready or had the appreciation I find myself having for Goodbye Lemon now.
Now that we have our dictionaries, let’s settle in! Goodbye Lemon is a love letter to a loss of innocence and the people who are left behind after a death. It deals very heavily with themes of grief, guilt, and blame. You, the reader, are not really here for a “good time;” there be no light-hearted fun here. Goodbye Lemon is painfully, heart-breakingly realistic, and it is not ashamed of that fact. Which is one of the reasons it’s so good. In some ways, this book felt like a memoir in its presentation and honesty.
And, just like his other novels, Davies likes to center in on one very-messed-up person and poke and prod them to see how they react and what they say. But his characters are just that: people. And that’s especially clear in Goodbye Lemon.
While mystery is a part of the story, it’s not the point. I figured pretty early on what the “big reveal” would be, but that guess didn’t take away from the story. In fact, I think it made me more curious. I wanted to know how Jack—the main character—got there; I wanted to follow his journey, his thoughts, and his actions. I wanted to see how his relationships would change. Would he sink? Or would he swim?
Overall, yes, Goodbye Lemon is absolutely worth a read. I finished it on a rainy evening while sitting quietly with my spouse, which was a good way to end this somber story with a ray of hope in its final pages.