CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 11. . . .November 15, 2013
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2013.
146 pp., trade pbk., pdf & ePUB, $12.99 (pbk.), $12.99 (pdf), $8.99 (ePUB)..
ISBN 978-1-4597-0533-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4597-0554-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4597-0555-5 (ePUB).
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.
“What’s going on?” Gillian, still pale, ducked back behind the doorframe, leaving only her eyes peeking out.
Two men in brown wool soldiers’ uniforms hurried down the hall with an air of purpose. The heels of their polished boots echoes behind them on the floor boards.
“I’d say they were just into vintage, but that doesn’t explain the guys’ army duds,” Gillian continued in a whisper.
It doesn’t make any sense, Maggie thought. What’s happened to our house?
“Maybe they’re all ghosts,” Cole said.
“Not more ghosts!” Gillian closed her eyes and hid her head in her hands.
Maggie could only see one answer. Somehow, it seemed they had travelled back in time.
Nancy Runstedler’s debut novel, Beautiful Goodbye, follows Maggie Kaufman, a 14-year-old girl who has recently experienced the sudden death of her father. She has struggled to adjust to life without her father, abandoning her former interests and resenting the changes in her life. Her father’s passing has altered her family life and the relationships she has with her mother and brother.
When Maggie and her best friend, Gillian, stumble across an Ouija board in her attic, Maggie is excited to use it to see if she will come into contact with her father’s spirit. Unexpectedly, Maggie, her brother Cole, and Gillian are introduced to the ghost of Hope Lewis, a former resident of their home. Hope sends them back to the year 1915. The time travellers meet the young and alive Hope who soon learns of her own father’s death in World War I. Maggie and her friends help her cope with the loss and, in the process, learn about the value of community in overcoming loss and pain.
An important lesson regarding history is learned when Maggie and Cole attempt to rescue Hope’s fiancé from being imprisoned in an internment camp for German and other European immigrants. They nearly find themselves detained due to their own German surname, but Hope’s quick thinking prevails, and the three youths escape and return to their own time period. They return with a new understanding of how to help others grieve and a richer knowledge of history, especially the mistakes that Canada made during World War I.
The combination of Ouija boards, spirits, time travel, and World War I on the home front is woven together in an interesting fashion. The topic of time travel is explored and done so in a way that is surprisingly satisfying and thoughtful for a youth fiction novel.
Unfortunately, there are elements of the author’s narrative style that distract from the book’s positive qualities. Characters’ thoughts and emotions are documented with too much detail. Readers are told that Maggie’s attitude towards Gillian is quite affectionate only to be then informed of Maggie’s dismissive thoughts regarding her friend’s opinions. While this may be true to life, it makes Beautiful Goodbye a less enjoyable read. Furthermore, the dialogue is often unconvincing in its attempts to emulate the conversations of 14-year-old girls.
It is difficult to determine whether the changes presented in the characters through the course of the story were reasonable given the unlikely nature of the plot. However, it is understandable that Maggie’s perspective concerning how to continue living in the wake of her father’s passing would be altered after having assisted Hope through her own difficult circumstances.
Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.
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