Penguin Group Canada|March 6, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-14-318257-3
The youngest of six daughters raised by a widowed mother, Meena is a young Indo-Canadian woman struggling to find her place in the world. She knows that the freedom experienced by others is beyond her reach. But unlike her older sisters, Meena refuses to accept a life dictated by tradition. Against her mother's wishes, she falls for a young man named Liam who asks her to run away with him. She must then make a painful choice - one that will lead to stunning and irrevocable consequences.
Heartbreaking and beautiful, Everything Was Good-Bye is an unforgettable story about family, love, loss, and the struggle of living in two different cultural worlds.
I loved the fact that this book was set in lower mainland British Columbia, Canada. It's always great to see novels set in Canadian cities.
Meena is a seventeen-year-old Indo-Canadian and the youngest daughter of six who is struggling to find her place in the world. She tries hard to adhere to the traditional values of her family but at the same time wants the freedom that other Canadian girls have. Her mother is widowed and raising the girls on her own and doesn't want to disappoint her but faces some very difficult choices in her life that eventually lead to catastrophic consequences for everyone involved.
Meena's mother has a heavy burden as the only parent raising six daughters and trying to ensure that each daughter is successfully placed in acceptable arranged marriages. Meena, of course, is included in this plan but it is not what she wants. Meena deeply desires to have the freedom to choose her own husband but suffers inner turmoil in trying to be true to her mother and her rules, yet have the freedom to choose for herself and refuses to totally accept this role that is expected of her.
At school she doesn't fit in, doesn't have any friends and is often mocked until she meets, Liam. Liam is totally different from anyone she's met before as he appears to accept her for who she is. Her mother absolutely forbids her from seeing Liam or even to be seen walking with him as she fears it will perpetuate rumours in their close-knit Punjabi community, but Meena, wanting her freedom and to make her own choices, disobeys her mother's warnings. Liam wants to run away to Toronto and asks Meena to go with him but she is torn between her family's traditions and rules and her desire to be and choose for herself. She waits too long to make up her mind and when she decides to go, Liam has disappeared.
Eventually Meena marries, Sunny, a successful lawyer and the son of a prominent Indo-Canadian family but neither of them really loves the other and only marry to keep their parents happy and to keep with the tradition. Feeling trapped in a marriage she doesn't want to be in, Meena concentrates on her career until she is invited to an art showing and runs into Liam whom she hasn't seen in years. Now she must decide whether to stay true to her marriage and the expectations of her family, or follow her heart and do what she feels deeply within herself.
I'd love to tell you what Meena decides and what follows but it would spoil the entire book and I'm not going to do that. I will say, however, that my heart bled for Meena throughout the entire book and I absolutely despised Sunny but adored Liam who had always, always accepted Meena for who and what she was with no strings attached.
The book had a superbly startling ending which I didn't see coming at all and left me literally in tears, sobbing as I continued to read and tears dripping on the pages. I haven't stopped thinking about it since, it feels so real to me although the book is a work of fiction, I had come to befriend, from my side of the book, Meena and her troubled life. Gurjinder Basran has done an exceptional job at writing Everything Was Good-Bye and that title has more meaning to me now that I've completed the book. It was the perfect choice for a title for this particular story.
There is an interview with Gurjinder Basran at the end of the book as well as some discussion questions that will have you really thinking about and peeling away the layers of the story which gives you an added experience to tale. I not only highly recommend this book but look forward, with anticipation, to further work by this author. For a debut novel, it was a phenomenal piece of work and was short-listed for Amazon.com's 2008 Breakthrough Novel Award.