Hello and welcome to the very first discussion of the No Time for Goodbye Readalong! I hope you’re all sitting comfortably (with a mug of tea and some snacks nearby) and are ready for today’s book chat. If you’ve just found us and not sure what this event is all about, you’ll find all the information you need on the No Time for Goodbye sign-up page.
Some of you who’ve been reading the blog for a few years might remember that I already read and reviewed NTFG on the blog a while ago. Quite a long time ago, actually. I still remember some details and what the book is about but – luckily for me – I can’t remember how it ends. I was trying to rack my brains when I picked it up to read the first few chapters yesterday, but my memories are quite hazy and I can’t for the life of me remember what happened to Cynthia’s family. So not only is this readalong a great way to prepare for the sequel but it’s almost like reading the book for the first time!
Anyway, this is what happened so far.
The book starts with a flashback scene in 1983, when fourteen-year old Cynthia wakes up one morning to find her house eerily quiet and her family gone. She’s had a row with her parents the night before so she assumes this is how they’re punishing her – and even though she finds it odd that both her parents and her brother disappeared without even leaving a note, she heads off to school, hoping she’s simply overreacting. But when it becomes clear that no one has seen her family since the day before, she panics.
Fast-forward 25 years and Cynthia, feeling apprehensive and terrified, is back at her childhood home for the first time, filming a documentary for a local news show about unsolved crimes. We learn that her family never came back after that day in 1983 – and it has haunted her ever since. Despite the speculations and many different theories (including ones which say it’s odd that Cynthia was the only one their kidnapper or killer left behind, so she must have been the one to kill them all), no one knows what might have happened. The police were baffled and closed the case after about a year, leaving Cynthia with no answers. We see how it has affected her life and her family’s life as well, and how, even after 25 years, she’s hoping they will come back.
We also meet Tess (probably one of my favourite characters from the book), a lady in her sixties and Cynthia’s aunt, who took her in after her family’s disappearance. And this is where the story gets tricky. Since she doesn’t have any children of her own, Tess has always lived alone. She didn’t have a well-paid job but she always managed as she only had herself to support. But with Cynthia and her education to cover, things should have been difficult. And that’s when the letters started to appear. As Tess reveals, someone left her a blank envelope with thousands of dollars in it every month until Cynthia graduated from university, along with an anonymous note which laid down the rules: she wasn’t to tell anyone about where the money came from, not even Cynthia, and wasn’t to try and find out where it came from. Ever.
I remember reading the book for the first time and thinking how hard it must be for Cynthia – not even the fact that your entire family disappeared but the not knowing, not having a clue whether they’re still alive or they were killed. You have no one to blame. You live your life in a constant feeling of uncertainty. But I also thought how hard it must be for her family – especially for her 8-year old daughter. Understandably, Cynthia does everything she can to protect Grace. (Walking her to and from school every day, and wanting to know where she is and who’s she spending time with all the time, for example.) But I completely understand why her family is just as stressed as she is.
Another thing I found interesting is the fact that we don’t know anything about Cynthia’s dad – and that even his family didn’t know too much about him. I mean, isn’t it odd that your father doesn’t have any childhood pictures or anything else from his past? Or the fact that he’s not on any of your family photos? I don’t know about you but it’d probably strike me as odd if I was them.
Oh, and Tess. I just adored her from the beginning. I love her for what she did for Cynthia and how she treats Grace and her dad. Every book should have a Tess.
What did you think of the first 10 chapters? Did the story of Cynthia’s dad strike you as odd?
If you’re reading along with us, make sure to leave a comment below so that we can discuss the first 10 chapters – or tweet about it using the #NTFG hashtag, or post about it on your blog and leave a link here – I’ll visit you back. See you next Wednesday when we’ll be talking about chapters 11-20!