Even though I have been reading a lot lately, it has been a few months since one resonated with me in such a way that it became a book that mattered. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner reminded me just how powerful a book can be.
One text changed everything. Seven words caused the car crash. An unfinished response for Carver Briggs was found on the driver's phone. As a high school student in a creative writing program at Nashville Academy for the Arts, Carver is used to telling stories but his words have now caused an ending for his three best friends: Blake, Eli, and Mars. Carver blames himself and he's not the only one. Eli's twin sister openly blames Carver for the loss of her brother. Even Judge Edwards, whose son was driving, holds Carver responsible and persuades the District Attorney to open an investigation against him. According to Carver's lawyer, he might be responsible if he knew Mars was driving and that his friend would answer. As the investigation closes in around him, Carver surrounds himself with the few people he can count on: his sister, Georgia; Blake's grandmother, Nana Betsy; and Eli's girlfriend, Jesmyn. But as those relationships grow distant, Carver embarks on a series of goodbye days with each victim's family as a way to pay his final respects to his friends and lay their memories to rest.
Goodbye Days tears at the heart. The investigation brings up the question of who is to blame in this new age of technology: the driver who answered the text who is no longer alive, the passengers who didn't offer to text Carver for Mars so he could focus on the road, the friend who texted but wasn't even in the car, or the society of instant gratification that never lets a text wait. Author Jeff Zentner shows how Carver's world grows smaller due to guilt and grief while some well placed flashbacks offer insight onto all he has lost. This is a book that truly matters.