Friday, August 18, 2023

Books: "Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel" By Leesa Cross-Smith

Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel

By Leesa Cross-Smith

Grand Central Publishing; hardcover, 400 pages; $29.00

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker living in Kentucky with her husband and two teenagers. She is the author of Every Kiss A War, Whiskey & Ribbons, So We Can Glow, This Close to Okay, and Half-Blown Rose.

In her new novel, Goodbye Earl, which took inspiration from the infamous, empowering Dixie Chicks song, four women take fate into their own hands in this story of friendship, resilience, and revenge on monstrous men. It is a farewell to all the "Earls" out there, the abusive men who think they can get away with anything, but are wrong.

The story, above all a celebration of enduring sisterhood, follows these four best friends - Rosemarie, Ada, Caroline, and Kasey - over two unforgettable summers, fifteen years apart.

In 2004, they are in their final days of high school and are on the precipice of all the things teenagers look forward to when everything seems possible in life. The imagine falling in love, finding their dream jobs, and becoming who they were meant to be.

The story then jumps to 2019, and Kasey has returned to her small Southern hometown of Goldie for the first time since high school. She still hasn't told her closest friends the truth of what really happened that summer after they graduated, or what made her leave so abruptly without looking back.

The friends are reunited in Goldie for a wedding, and Kasey is determined to focus on the simple joy of being back with her best friends. However, she notices troubling signs that one of them might be in danger, which catapults her back to that fateful summer.

This time, Kasey refuses to let the worst moments of her past define her, and unlike before, she knows how to protect those she loves at all costs.

In this excerpt, Kasey has arrived back in town in 2019: "Kasey's heart cartwheeled as she walked toward Plum Bakery - still smack-dab in the middle of the town square. The building was lavender and pale pink with green polka-dotted letters, the windows filled with pastel-colored sweet treats, cupcakes, cakes, and pies. Right next to the bakery was the restaurant, Plum Eats. Down on the corner, Plum Florals connected to Plum Designs. The Plum family had run a small bakery in town for over a hundred years before Ada and her mother turned Plum Inc. into the monster of a local empire it was today. There'd been a headline on the front of the Goldie Gazette last year: ADA PLUM-CASTELOW, GOLDIE'S STAR AND SOURCE OF STYLE. Caroline had emailed it to Rosemarie and Kasey when it happened, along with RACK NEWS! Look at our girl! Rosemarie replied from Barcelona, No surprise this beauty. I love her so much. Kasey had written back, Oh wow look at our girl indeed!

Rosemarie, Ada, Caro, and Kasey tried their best to keep in touch with one another as much as they had in the past, but at times it was impossible with their busy schedules. Rosemarie was leading hunger-relief initiatives both domestically and all over the globe. Ada had the Plum Inc. empire on top of her husband and four (!) boys. Caro had recently gotten married and was forever busy with baking.

Ada and Caro stayed in Goldie, and since Caro ran Plum Bakery now, they were the two who saw each other most often and remained as close as they were in high school. The foursome had gotten together every now and again when their schedules aligned in the fifteen years since they'd graduated from high school, but never in Goldie. Always in NYC or Seattle. Seattle: Rosemarie's new home base whenever she was stateside. Who could resist a girls' week/weekend in either of those cities? Well, in truth, Kasey had tried resisting it the first time, but Rosemarie showed up on her doorstep hollering KASEY FRITZ, IT'S ROSES! I LOVE YOU AND I FOUND YOU! Ada and Caro flew up the next day. Kasey knew Rosemarie would be the first to come see her; Rosemarie also had been the first to email her after she left. She kept emailing even when Kasey took too long to write back or didn't reply at all.

When they all got together that first time in New York, the girls sat Kasey down and again demanded answers. Kasey listened, they cried. She told them what she'd always told them: that she'd felt like if she didn't leave that night, she'd be trapped forever. When Rosemarie was the last to go, she told Kasey she'd get the girls to lay off from asking her to explain herself, as long as she promised to never go completely radio silent on them. Kasey made that easy promise."


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