Three Words for Goodbye: A Novel

Written by Hazel Gaynor Heather Webb
Review by Dorothy Schwab

Violet, too ill to travel in 1937, has organized a journey to Europe for granddaughters Clara and Maddy to deliver good-bye letters to the meaningful people in her life of 40 years ago. The sisters, once inseparable as young girls, have barely spoken since their father’s death over a year ago.

Co-authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb have done a superb job of defining the personalities of Clara and Maddy, using poignant memories and images from their childhood and complexities of their adult desires, inhibitions, and fears. Clara, cautious and pessimistic, with rules and schedules dictating her days, is a promising artist. Ambitious Maddy, who refuses to conform and insists on going her own way, is a budding journalist. Violet encourages the girls to “enjoy your differences,” which also suggests readers do the same with family and friends.

The journey to Paris, Venice, and Vienna is as much for Violet’s last good-byes to be delivered as it is for Clara and Maddy to experience time for self-examination. Maddy, very inquisitive, bold, and brash, is directly the opposite of Clara, who has not found her voice, even with her fiancé, millionaire Charles Hancock. The self-analysis and discoveries made by each sister along the way give the reader plenty to ponder long after the journey is over. One thing the sisters do agree on is Violet’s transportation choices, which include the opulent Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the Hindenburg. With the detailed descriptions and perfect analogies, readers will travel first class throughout the trip!

The suspense of decisions to be made and secrets to be revealed are intensified as the sisters travel to each destination. In Three Words for Goodbye, the anticipation of what lies ahead for Clara and Maddy adds to this enriching, enjoyable journey.