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Goodbye, Goodness: A Novelby Sam Brumbaugh
Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant debut novel about New York and Los Angeles in the nineties, Annie Oakley, and the end of the American Dream.
Hayward Theiss is on the lam, hiding out in a Malibu beach house that is not his, and trying to understand how he got there. A car crash, a bag of dope, a sinister producer, and his best friend's strange escape from rehab all figure into the story. To further complicate matters, Hayward is the great-grandson of a massively ambitious robber baron named Finn Theiss, who had a long-ago affair with the sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Hayward begins to untangle the convoluted estrangement between these two, and confronts the possibility that Annie Oakley is in fact his great-grandmother. The novel includes beautifully interwoven excerpts from Oakley's autobiography that have never appeared in book form. Goodbye, Goodness is a simultaneously hopeful and bleakly realistic, hilarious, and devastatingly sad book about the American dream coming to the end of the line.
Brumbaugh writes with the exquisite, nonchalant precision of a master chef preparing an early dinner for friends. Readers will be thrilled at the arrival of this new voice — and this new take on coming of age while fervently reckoning with the past.
"Brumbaugh's evocative debut novel begins with his narrator, Hayward, hightailing it from the scene of the car wreck he just survived. He finds refuge in an empty Malibu beach house where he recuperates and slowly reveals how he got there. Hayward had recently fled the East Coast for a TV production job in Los Angeles, but he's consumed with guilt for having left his ailing girlfriend behind. On his westward journey, he crosses paths with two close friends from his college days: Will, an up-and-coming magazine writer, and Kimmel, a somewhat famous singer-songwriter. Hayward's once tight relationships with them have become strained, and as he unravels the tensions, he discovers new, dark aspects of their lives. Brumbaugh's tight style and flair for detail ('His shirt collar poked out like a broken kickstand.') save this novel from being just another story about late twenty-something boho prepsters trying to find their place in a cruel, unforgiving world. With the occasional snippets about Annie Oakley (a relative of both the author and Hayward), Brumbaugh's novel, though at times melodramatic and forced, manages nevertheless to be drearily engaging." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[B]oasts just enough sea air and action to make an appealing summer read without coming anywhere near fluffsville....Just as you find yourself engrossed in one [narrative thread], [Brumbaugh] switches to another, building a ferocious tension right up to the novel's bushwacking conclusion." Time Out New York
"Goodbye, Goodness has scenes set in Georgetown, Malibu, and the Wild West, but its real location is the whooshing vacuum left behind in the wake of failed American optimism....Goodbye, Goodness beautifully captures the wrung-out feel of a depleted American century." Baltimore City Paper
"[A]nother ho-hum study of contemporary anomie....The writing about Annie, based on the historical record, is clear and to the point, much in contrast to the foggy limbo inhabited by the present-day characters....Disappointing." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] beautifully written book of range and vision. Sam Brumbaugh captures wonderfully the aching possibilities of his generation of quintessentially solitary, wandering Americans, along with their sense of isolation, silence, and betrayal. The characters in this rich, smart novel live their lives like reenactments of fake memories as they seek to earn mystery, myth, and second chances. I can't recommend this haunting novel highly enough." Chuck Kinder, author of Honeymooners
"Brumbaugh takes us to the burnt-out edges of personal history. He is able to watch and observe and feel at the same time — a fact finder stuck in a tragicomedy, with slow acoustic guitar as a sidekick." Stephen Malkmus
Brumbaugh writes with the exquisite, tossed-off precision of a master chef preparing an early dinner for friends. Readers of Michael Cunningham, Rick Moody, Leonard Michaels, and Jeffrey Eugenides will be thrilled at the arrival of this new voice — and this new take on coming-of-age while fervently reckoning with the past. Goodbye, Goodness is a simultaneously hopeful and bleakly realistic, hilarious, and devastatingly sad book about the American dream coming to the end of the line.
GOODBYE, GOODNESS is a sad but ultimately (sort of) triumphant story about the weight of personal history and the obligations of the present, about the relationships that construct our lives while simultaneously destroying them. Hayward is the great grandson of an eccentric baron of the gilded age named Finn, a man who built the first roads across the country, famous for their unearthly glow in the moonlight, the inventor of the first Sea World, an attraction that would showcase the cities of the future, and a lover of Annie Oakley, a character who deeply influenced our ideas of the American frontier. His massive legacy has ruled the generations after him and Hays family has been alternating between ill-conceived plots to shore up the family fortune and great hemorrhages of waste and abandon, massive purchases quickly forgotten, drunken fishing trips and even drunker prep school reunions. The novel opens with Hay recovering from a concussion in a beach house that he has broken into, having obviously gone through hell but telling the reader nothing of how hes gotten there. In interconnecting flashbacks we see the story of his life; his early experiences with his father, his meeting at Yale of his friends Will and Kimmel, a post college romance in New York that turns into full time care-taking of an insane woman, and an eventual overtaking by alcoholism with a crash landing on the west coast. Exploring the past and the present of a deeply unconventional family and using episodes taken from Annie Oakley's actual diary, Brumbaugh illuminates the narrative of a life separated from normalcy.
Hayward Theiss is on the lam, hiding out in a Malibu beach house that is not his and trying to figure out how he got there. A car crash, a bag of dope, a sinister producer, and his best friend's strange escape from rehab all complicate matters further.
About the Author
Sam Brumbaugh has worked in the music industry for two decades, touring with bands such as Pavement, Cat Power, and Mogwai, producing music specials for PBS, and, most recently, a documentary on the great Texas musician Townes Van Zandt (Be Here to Love Me). His fiction has been published in Open City magazine and The Southwest Review. A relative of Annie Oakley himself, he lives in New York City.
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