Goodbye Days
by Zentner, Jeff






When a simple text causes a fatal crash, ending the lives of his three best friends, a guilt-ridden Carver becomes subject to a criminal investigation and receives support from a few loving people before his friends' families ask him to share a goodbye day with them. Simultaneous eBook.





Jeff Zentner is the acclaimed author of The Serpent King. In addition to writing, he is also a singer-songwriter and guitarist who has recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. Goodbye Days is his love letter to the city of Nashville and the talented people who populate it. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. You can follow him on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter at @jeffzentner.





*Starred Review* "I may have killed my three best friends," 17-year-old Carver agonizes. How so? He sent a text to his friend Mars, knowing the boy was driving at the time; distracted by replying to the text, Mars crashed into a stopped truck, killing himself and Carver's two other best friends, Blake and Eli. Now Mars' father, a judge, has called on the district attorney to open an investigation and weigh charges of criminally negligent homicide against Carver. Bereft and virtually friendless, riddled by guilt, and overwhelmed by stress, Carver begins having panic attacks, which send him into therapy. Interestingly, he makes an unlikely new friend in Eli's girlfriend, Jesmyn, but when he tells her that he desires more than friendship with her, she rejects him. Meanwhile, Carver's attempts at atonement with Blake's grandmother, Eli's parents, and Mars' father meet with mixed success, feeding his subconscious desire for punishment. Zentner does an excellent job in creating empathetic characters, especially his protagonist Carver, a budding writer whose first-person account of his plight is artful evidence of his talent. The story builds suspense while developing not only empathetic but also multidimensional characters in both Carver and Jesmyn. The result is an absorbing effort with emotional and psychological integrity. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.





Seventeen-year-old Carver Briggs feels responsible for the deaths of his best friends and must deal with his own life, now forever altered. "Where are you guys? Text me back," Carver texted his friend Mars, who replied, or at least started to, as proven by the half-composed text found on Mars' phone at the crash site. Mars had been driving while texting, and his car smashed into a semi on the highway, killing Mars, Blake, and Eli. Carver feels responsible, but is he responsible? It turns out that under Tennessee law (Nashville is the setting for the story), Carver might be held as "criminally negligent," since he knew Mars was driving and knew Mars would reply, even though he never intended to kill anyone. Zentner's novel peels back the many layers of feeling that Carver experiences as he deals with his family, the families of his friends, and school, the present-tense narration putting readers directly in Carver's head. However, although Carver is an unusually bright student with a supportive family and therapist, his voice is at times too adult, too didactic in delivering long passages of wise reflections about life normally gained from more time and experience. Still, it is a novel full of wisdom, even if Carver himself hasn't had time to acquire all of it himself. Carver is white, as are Eli and Blake; Mars is black. A fine cautionary tale and journey toward wisdom, poignant and realistic. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





Chapter One

Depending on who—­sorry, whom—­you ask, I may have killed my three best friends.

If you ask Blake Lloyd’s grandma, Nana Betsy, I think she’d say no. That’s because when she first saw me earlier today, she grabbed me in a huge, tearful hug and whispered in my ear: “You are not responsible for this, Carver Briggs. God knows it and so do I.” And Nana Betsy tends to say what she thinks. So there’s that.

If you ask Eli Bauer’s parents, Dr. Pierce Bauer and Dr. Melissa Rubin-­Bauer, I expect they’d say maybe. When I saw them today, they each looked me in the eyes and shook my hand. In their faces, I saw more bereavement than anger. I sensed their desolation in the weakness of their handshakes. And I’m guessing part of their fatigue was over whether to hold me accountable in some way for their loss. So they go down as a maybe. Their daughter, Adair? Eli’s twin? We used to be friends. Not like Eli and I were, but friends. I’d say she’s a “definitely” from the way she glowers at me as if she wishes I’d been in the car too. She was doing just that a few minutes ago, while talking with some of our classmates attending the funeral.

Then there’s Judge Frederick Douglass Edwards and his ex-­wife, Cynthia Edwards. If you ask them if I killed their son, Thurgood Marshall “Mars” Edwards, I expect you’d hear a firm “probably.” When I saw Judge Edwards today, he towered over me, immaculately dressed as always. Neither of us spoke for a while. The air between us felt hard and rough as stone. “It’s good to see you, sir,” I said finally, and extended my sweating hand.

“None of this is good,” he said in his kingly voice, jaw muscles clenching, looking above me. Beyond me. As though he thought if he could persuade himself of my insignificance, he could persuade himself that I had nothing to do with his son’s death. He shook my hand like it was both his duty and his only way of hurting me.

Then there’s me. I would tell you that I definitely killed my three best friends.

Not on purpose. I’m pretty sure no one thinks I did it on purpose; that I slipped under their car in the dead of night and severed the brake lines. No, here’s the cruel irony for the writer I am: I wrote them out of existence. Where are you guys? Text me back. Not a particularly good or creative text message. But they found Mars’s phone (Mars was driving) with a half-­composed text responding to me, just as I requested. It looks like that was what he was working on when he slammed into the rear of a stopped semi on the highway at almost seventy miles per hour. The car went under the trailer, shearing off the top.

Am I certain that it was my text message that set into motion the chain of events that culminated in my friends’ deaths? No. But I’m sure enough.

I’m numb. Blank. Not yet in the throes of the blazing, ringing pain I’m certain waits for me in the unrolling days ahead. It’s like once when I was chopping onions to help my mom in the kitchen. The knife slipped and I sliced open my hand. There was this pause in my brain as if my body needed to figure out it had been cut. I knew two things right then: (1) I felt only a quick strike and a dull throbbing. But the pain was coming. Oh, was it coming. And (2) I knew that in a second or two, I was about to start raining blood all over my mom’s favorite bamboo cutting board (yes, people can form deep emotional attachments to cutting boards; no, I don’t get it so don’t ask).

So I sit at Blake Lloyd’s funeral and wait for the pain. I wait to start bleeding all over everything.






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