Book Review: Starting with Goodbye

Lisa Romeo’s father gave her everything she could ever want. He financed expensive vacations and could get her almost anything else she desired from hard to get tickets to the best horses. Yet, he is distant, physically living across the country after an early retirement, and emotionally, somewhat because of her own choices and actions. It isn’t until after his death, that she sees all that she was missing while he was alive. Book Review Graphic

This is a memoir of parental death, but mostly of grief. Though we do experience her father before death after a stroke, the majority of the book focuses on Romeo’s experiences after he dies. This is when she begins to talk and visit with him. It is through these post-death interactions that she starts to get to know and appreciate her father.

It is an interesting concept for a book since I can not think of many books that focus on the grieving process of a daughter and father in the same way. Helen McDonald’s H is for Hawk covers the topic, though mostly through the author’s training of a goshawk.

There are also books about widows (Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking) as well as many books that deal with the illness and dying of those we love. Romeo mentions that researchers have begun thinking about how adult daughters process the death of fathers and that the relationship between fathers and sons (Blake Morrison’s And When Did You Last See Your Father) and daughters and mothers (Meghan O’Rourke The Long Goodbye) is often explored more often.

Book Cover Starting with Goodby A Daughter's Memoir of Love after Loss
Starting with Goodbye Cover Art via www.lisaromeo.net

As someone who writes often about my own father’s illness and death, I was particularly interested in the father-daughter dynamic, especially since our fathers would have been of the same generations. I also found Romeo’s interactions with her mother and family members honestly portrayed. She mentions how her and her mother don’t really speak and spend their time shopping. But when her father was gone she was able to view her relationship with mother with fresh eyes.

She is also much younger than her two siblings and had a different relationship with her parents than they did. She also did not shy away from showing scenes where they may not have always agreed on the care of her parents, which was refreshingly honest.

Overall, I found it to be a realistic and thought-provoking look at how a middle-aged woman deals with her father’s death. We often don’t appreciate what is in front of us and begin to miss what annoys us most about our loved ones when they are gone. We can’t see that their peculiarities are what makes them captivating.

9 comments

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  1. Lisa Romeo

    An interesting book (even if you are not Italian-American) is: Daughters, Dads, and the Path Through Grief: Tales from Italian America, by Lorraine Mangione and Donna DiCello.

  2. Karen DeBonis

    Great review Catherine. I’ll have to look for research on how adult daughters mourn the passing of their fathers. My father is still alive, but I’ve had a complex relationship with him and wonder how it will hit me after he’s gone.

    • Catherine Lanser

      I never really thought about the difference between illness narratives and grief narratives until I read this. Let me know if you find anything about fathers and daughters.

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