Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Book Review: Three Words for Goodbye

By Sara Steven

New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly.

Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy.

Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and  Venice,, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey.  (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Three Words for Goodbye highlighted the heady steps two women take while embarking on a trip across Europe, in a time when females weren’t encouraged to travel alone or to stray from womanly duties. Clara and Maddie are opposing personalities, with Clara feeling strong ties to her obligatory duty as a fiancee, while Maddie opposes anything that has the potential to restrict her from living her life to the fullest. The trip they take on behalf of their grandmother seems to be the catalyst for a much-needed change in not only the way they see the world, but how they see their own relationship with one another. 

I loved the sisterly dynamics within the storyline. It wasn’t written to be some perfect family ties that bind scenario, where the two get along famously. As the synopsis indicates, they are at odds with one another and I felt that was very true to life with how bonds can go between family members, particularly for sisters who are so polar opposite of one another. It reminded me a lot of the way my relationship had been with my own sister when we were younger, due to where we were in our lives, the varying degrees of responsibility and accountability we had. I’d become a mother before my sister, and it wasn’t until she entered that realm when we started to form common bonds, and when Clara and Maddie are thrown into different troublesome and at times, scary experiences, can we see commonality form between them, too. 

I also appreciated the historical aspect within Three Words. With references to the Hindenburg, the political fears shortly before the destruction done by Hitler, and highlighting on what was known to be a woman’s place during the era, I truly felt as if the experiences the women faced occurred in the late 30’s, never feeling as though the decade got ahead of itself.  It made their struggles to be seen and heard in a time when a woman’s voice was more identified by the man she was tied to, even more visible. 

It’s a story about adventure, and about taking chances. About pushing beyond the borders put in place by society. But the biggest vein here are the connections with family, with the strongest bonds tied to sisterhood. I very much enjoyed Three Words for Goodbye, a well-deserved five-star experience!

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment:

The Book Sage said...

I totally agree with you on this book. It was definitely a 4/4 for me. Did you know that Heather Webb will be Zooming in to our book club on November 4. Hazel Gaynor won't be on because she lives in Australia.