About the Book
Title: The Truth About Goodbye
Author: Russell Ricard
Published: April 4, 2017
Category: fiction, gay books
Genre: gay literature
Sebastian Hart has dealt with a lifetime of goodbyes. And now, a year after his husband Frank’s death, the forty-year-old Broadway chorus boy still blames himself. After all, Sebastian started the argument that night over one of Frank’s former date items, someone younger than Sebastian who still wanted Frank.
Challenged by his best friend, the quirky ex-Rockettes dancer Chloe, Sebastian struggles toward his dream of becoming a choreographer and grapples with romantic feelings for Reid, a new student in his tap class.
Ultimately, Sebastian begins to wonder whether it’s his imagination, or not, that Frank’s ghost is here, warning him that he daren’t move on with another love. He questions the truth: Is death really the final goodbye?
This is an enjoyable read, very well-written with an engaging style. It’s a fairly quick read, not heavy on angst despite the premise of Sebastian’s loss and grief.
There are many things I loved, starting with the backdrop of Broadway and dance. It does help to know a few basic dance terms, but it’s not necessary in order to enjoy the story. I liked all the references to many of my own favorite shows and how seamlessly those are woven right into the narrative.
Sebastian is a classic unreliable narrator, but it’s fascinating to watch his discovery of this fact himself. I’m not entirely convinced he quite arrives there, but he does at least begin to put the pieces of his life back together. I particularly liked the author’s use of third person present tense here and felt it fit perfectly.
It was refreshing to read a real-world, contemporary book with an LGBT+ main character that isn’t specifically about that. Nor is it a romance, even though there’s a love interest. The themes around long-term relationships are highly relevant in the changing landscape of same-gender marriage.
There are two things holding me back from giving this full marks. First, I didn’t like Chloe at all. She fills the “quirky best friend” role, but she’s also incredibly annoying and not an especially well-developed character. The resolution to her plot line had me rolling my eyes. It’s a trope I typically like (which I won’t spoil here), but it was done in a way that left me feeling more like she’d been put in her place for daring to be an outspoken, independent woman over age 35.
The other thing is that as good as this novel is, and as entertaining, it simply didn’t feel like much of anything fresh. The characters are different in personality but tend to fall into cliches: neurotic main character, plucky and meddlesome best friend, stable and steady love interest, hodgepodge of quirky side characters. Essentially, they’re like the cast of a Broadway musical. That works great in a musical, less well in a novel. I didn’t feel like I learned something new about the world or myself through reading it, and that’s what I’m looking for in my literary fiction.
Aside from that, I did really like the book. I’m looking forward to seeing what journeys the author takes us on in the future.
For excellent storytelling, an unreliable but likable narrator, and plenty of music and dance references, this gets 9/10 fountain pens.
About the Author
RUSSELL RICARD is a veteran musical theater performer who has appeared in regional, national, and international productions and on Broadway. He received his MFA in creative writing from The New School. He writes character-driven fiction that celebrates diversity. The Truth About Goodbye is his debut novel. He lives in Forest Hills, NY, with his husband, cat, and a lovingly supportive stand-up desk named Ruth.