Synopses & Reviews
"Kath is curious," observes her younger brother, Ethan, not without anxiety. She is thirteen; already everyone can see she's got her eye on bigger things than provincial Fresno can offer. Years in the glamorous chill of an East Coast prep school will introduce her to a razor-sharp sense of social distinction, cocaine "so good it's pink," and an indispensable best friend all that she needs to prepare for life in Manhattan. There will be fourteen-dollar cocktails but no money for groceries; unsuitable men of enormous charm, and unsuitable jobs of no charm at all; and a wistful yearning for a transformation from someone of promise into someone of genius.
In this deliciously witty and affecting debut novel, fiction winks at real life: Katherine Taylor is its muddled heroine, and also its author. Written in the tradition of Curtis Sittenfeld and Melissa Bank, with the gorgeous hues of a pile of Gatsby's shirts, Rules for Saying Goodbye is a bittersweet yet comic coming-of-age tale that has an unerring feel for the delights and malaises of a generation.
"Katherine Taylor's debut features a narrator named Katherine Taylor, whose rebellious mother sends her from Fresno to Manhattan's fictional Claver prep at age 13. The madcap, fast-forward shenanigans that follow read like Auntie Mame la A.M. Homes. Rich Claver friend Page gets pregnant and develops a coke habit. Katherine gets a Columbia M.F.A. but lacks drive, tending bar at an exclusive hotspot while trying not to deal with her abrasive mom. Katherine's brother, Ethan, a gay actor, rooms with her in her cheap uptown digs until he becomes 'the face of Diet Coke.' There's ambivalent romance that involves a move to London. Claver friend Clarissa gets cancer as she turns 30. When a nutty neighbor threatens to kill Katherine, police advise vacating, but 'giving up a rent-controlled apartment to save your life is as ridiculous as living in Queens.' While a lot of what Katherine does is familiar, Taylor is a superb satirist, eviscerating everyone in her Katherine's path. In the middle of the novel she drops a list of 'rules for saying goodbye'; it's extraneous, even precious, and it's the best thing in the book: e.g., 'Once you are gone, be gone for good.' Taylor manages to make worn New York yarns feel fresh again. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Taylor beautifully conjures the unmoored and uncertain feelings of young adulthood." Library Journal
"Rules for Saying Goodbye achieves a directness and intimacy few novels can match. A beautifully observed and poignant book." T.C. Boyle, National Book Award nominee for Drop City
"Reading Katherine Taylor is like meeting at a party full of strangers the person you instantly recognize will be a friend for life. Confiding, gossipy, and heartfelt, Rules for Saying Goodbye charts the inexplicable failings and the surprising durabilities of love. It is a sparkling and witty debut." Elisabeth Robinson, author of the New York Times bestseller The True and Amazing Adventures of the Hunt Sisters
In this deliciously witty and affecting debut novel, fiction winks at real life: Katherine Taylor is its muddled heroine, and also its author who has written a bittersweet yet comic coming-of-age tale that has an unerring feel for the delights and malaise of a generation.
In the world of Kate Taylor, heroine of Rules for Saying Goodbye, pleasure and melancholy are close neighbors--like the summer hats and lobster boilers squashed together in the tiny closet of her Manhattan apartment. In this hilarious, bittersweet story, we follow young Kate from her girlhood in Fresno California, through a career at a chilly New England prep school, and on to life in Manhattan, where she finds a sometimes dissipated, sometimes glamorous life of fourteen-dollar cocktails, empty cupboards, and extravagantly unsuitable men.
In this witty and affecting debut, the real-life Katherine Taylor chronicles the moment when you stop waiting for things to happen, and go in search of them yourself.
About the Author
Katherine Taylor has won a Pushcart Prize, and her work has appeared in such journals as Ploughshares. Much like her fictional alter ego, she has burned bridges in London, Rome, and Brussels, but now lives in Los Angeles.
Reading Group Guide
1. How much were you affected by the fact that the authors name is the same as the narrators? Does the line between fact and fiction, memoir and novel, matter very much?
2. What is at the root of Elizabeths fear regarding Fresno and life in general? What unfulfilled dreams is she working through by sending Kate away? How does Kates concept of the future compare to her mothers dream for her? Did your parents try to foist any odd visions of fulfillment on you?
3. What distinctions separate a girls coming-of-age story from a boys? Who are Kates greatest role models in shaping her identity as a woman? In what ways do her parents treat sons and daughters differently?
4. As a prep school, what did Claver promise to prepare its graduates to do? For Kate, what were the best and worst aspects of life there? Was she prepared for the world after she completed high school?
5. Page and Clarissa were raised in very different households. How much influence did their families have over their lives? Did the girls make it safely to adulthood because of or despite the way they were raised? Who were the most memorable parents you encountered among your friends when you were growing up?
6. How would you characterize Kates Claver friendships? What did it take to gain and keep friends there? Was her circle similar to yours, in terms of loyalty, disobedience, or other factors?
7. Doris feels safe in hospitals, surrounded by caretakers who are the opposite of sadistic Aunt Lou. How was Kate affected by the presence of Doris and Lou in her family? What harm existed in both Kates and Doriss households?
8. Discuss the cross-country road trip Kate and her mother took. What new perspectives did Kate gain about Elizabeth, now that Kate had reached adulthood? How would you and your mother have gotten along on a trip like this one?
9. Is having wealthy parents a boon or a curse in Kates life?
10. How does Kates existence with Ethan in New York compare to her days on the West Coast? How does her life in Europe compare to her time in the United States? Where does Kate feel the least homesick?
11. At the end of chapter eleven, Kate encounters an aging Mrs. Burns, who is gleefully watching Jonas and Ethan roller-skate. What liberating lessons had Mrs. Burns taught her more than a decade ago?
12. In what way was climbing Le Dom with Henry and Oliver similar to the other challenges Kate faced—in dating, coping with her mother, keeping a job?
13. Chapter fourteen gives the novel its title. How could Kates rules have improved some of your departures? Who has said goodbye to her at various points in her life, and vice versa?
14. What aspects of Kate are represented in the novels four parts? What is the effect of the way the author blends humorous and wrenching moments in her storytelling?
15. In the closing scenes of chapter nineteen, Delia leaves the city after "she had made us believe, for a little while, that we had been missing something." How did Delia develop such a hold over her friends? Did you envy any aspects of her personality or her life?
16. At the summer house in Michigan, Clarissa is both recovering from a frightening illness and getting used to the prospect of motherhood. How did your impressions of her shift from the beginning of the novel to this point?
17. "I no longer needed to be reminded that a lot of girls would have stayed," the author writes in the novels final line. Would you have stayed with Lucas?