BOOK REVIEW: STARTING WITH GOOD-BYE

Lisa Romeo’s new memoir, STARTING WITH GOOD-BYE, is an Everywoman’s tale.

My father was not like her father, but her story is mine, and will resonate with all women who realize too late that their father would have been, if they had ever been able to talk to each other without bickering, their best advisor, guardian, and friend. My own father died when I was twenty-four. It took fifty years for him to come back and say hello, and that was in my dreams.

Lisa’s father comes back as a ghost shortly after his death. At times, I found myself wishing this had turned out to be more of a ghost story, but there are no chills running down the back, no strange knocks at the door, just sightings of her father and a recounting of their conversations. Though Lisa was raised a Catholic and retains remnants of that upbringing, she does not make any claims about the provenance of this phantom. He just shows up and has a little chat. The effect is more charming than creepy and provides a layer of humor. She introduces a wonderful quote from Emily Dickinson “Absence is condensed presence.” Maybe that is what her father’s ghost is.

There’s a lot more to the book than just Lisa and her father. There is a peek into the life of an equestrian, observations about the effects of having been raised wealthy, an introduction to Italian immigrant culture, lots of references to New Jersey, and a picture of the tangles and contradictions that are common to every family, which are always interesting to parse.

Lisa’s delicate longing for the past pervades the book. Her transparent writing will remind readers that it pervades our lives too. When I finished it, I heaved a deep sigh, then did what Lisa did; I looked to my loved ones, my ambitions, and my own life, and took the next step forward.

By the way, STARTING WITH GOOD-BYE reassures all parents that though your children might think you’re a doofus and don’t want to introduce you to their friends, they will openly love you some day, even if only after you’re dead.

I’ll take it.