Title: The Places We Say Goodbye
Author: Jordan Taylor
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 235 Pages
Category: Literary/Genre Fiction
At a Glance: The Places We Say Goodbye is an outstanding story and comes highly recommended to you.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Flep has a great job as a New York City production designer, a blossoming relationship with Torin, and the potential joy of becoming a stepparent to Torin’s two young daughters. Nothing could be better—yet his life is crumbling from the inside out.
Ever since moving in with Torin, Flep has dreamed of muddy trenches, bullet-riddled bodies, and endless horrors, which only grow worse and spill into his day-to-day life. Traumatized and sleepless, he slogs on: a soldier afflicted with post-traumatic stress. Only, Flep has never been a soldier, let alone been to war.
Fighting for his sanity, Flep turns to unlikely sources for help—even phantoms from another era. It could take a family from 1916 to illuminate his waking nightmares, but the truth may come at the price of losing his new family along the way.
Review: Past Lives. The dead from the past attempting to communicate to the living in the present. Imperative need and unfinished business pushing up from the grave. Sounds scary? Fascinating? Something that resonates with your own imagination or, even, beliefs? Then you need to read Jordan Taylor’s novel, The Places We Say Goodbye, immediately, for it is the most compelling case for acceptance of the idea that we all have a link to a past life, and, in this case, it is a visceral and terrifying connection for poor Flep.
So many changes have happened to our poor main character in the last few months. Flep once dreamed of being a Hollywood set designer, and while he’s still successful in that business, New York is where he has landed a new and stressful leadership role in a design company. He likes his job but he finds more than not that he doubts his own abilities to guide the interns that are part of his creative team. Couple this with a new life that centers around a bisexual chef with two strong-willed daughters, a bitter ex-wife who struggles to be fair handed, and a new living situation, and Flep has more than his share of stress and upheaval. However unconventional and crazy their family life is, Flep truly likes Torin’s daughters, Isabelle and Carine, and is determined to make a life with them and their father. Torin is self-absorbed and establishing a growing business that he desperately wants to expand and so he has little time to spend with either Flep or his daughters. Yet he genuinely loves them all—it’s just hard to see that, for all his attention is bent on being a success. To this mix, we have the ex, Amelie, who tries to like Flep and actually ends up helping him when she invites him to a dinner party and puts him in contact with a student at the university that is studying dreams and their relation to past life experiences.
All this sounds complicated but infinitely doable—after all, dreams that seem real can be explained away and even attributed to past lives. The problem is Flep’s dreams aren’t just pleasant memories; they are horrifying remembrances of gritty and violent battle scenes from World War I, and he is the soldier who frantically attempts to hang onto life amidst the chaos and death all around him. Unfortunately, these dreams don’t only plague his sleep; they begin to absorb his every waking moment. Flep is dying, literally wasting away, unable to eat, unable to work, unable to do much beyond relive his terrifying dreams over and over. Torin is lost as to how to help, and scoffs at Flep’s belief that he is this WWI soldier reincarnated. The children live in a half-life limbo, struggling with their parents’ divorce and being bounced from home to home without any pattern or plan. They want to like Flep but they don’t know him, and his waking nightmare existence confuses and frightens them. When Flep finally tells Torin he must search for his past among the living, it looks as though their struggling relationship is over—a real death that will shatter them all.
This was an intense and, at times, disturbing novel. I say disturbing because Jordan Taylor has an incredible way with describing war scenes that will stick with you for a very long time. You feel as though you are literally plunged headlong into the battle and watching the death and destruction all around you. You can almost taste and see the violence poor Flep experiences in his dreams. Add to that the stunning way in which the story moves from point of view to point of view, with Torin, Flep, Amelie and Isabelle all sharing the narration. While this took some getting used to, there was a definite rhythm established and after a short adjustment period, I felt the exchanging narration duties really added to the story immensely.
The descriptive dream passages that gradually flowed into Flep’s every waking moment were beyond visceral and so realistic—the frantic and desperate need to get that letter out of his pocket, the way in which that small piece of paper was used to tie every memory together, was stunning, as was the reality of how important it was in the present day. The gradual build in this novel’s plot, the meshing of the past with the current day, was brilliantly accomplished. I was so thrilled at how every small piece proved to be interconnected and important to the resolution of the story.
The premise of The Places We Say Goodbye was palatable and realistic. The story was crafted so carefully that even if you never before considered past life experiences to be true, you could easily buy into this story and be convinced by it. I think the only element that gave me pause was Torin’s change of heart. While it was not necessarily overdone or too rapid a change in his personality, I still felt it was a bit of a stretch for someone who was so completely consumed by his work and, to a certain extent, his own comfort and idea of family. I appreciated that we caught glimpses of his past that allowed for us to understand what prompted his life focus, but this was most definitely Flep’s story, so Torin often came off as a bit of an uncaring bastard. His 180 degree turn near the end was just a bit too much to take in. I found myself wishing for less cooking and tasting and more past revelations about Torin so that I could better understand and believe in his change of heart by novel’s end.
However, this small annoyance pales in comparison to the breadth and scope of this gorgeous novel. The Places We Say Goodbye is an outstanding story and comes highly recommended to you.
You can buy The Places We Say Goodbye here: