Goodbye Without Leaving

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ever since she used her piggy bank savings to buy Chuck Berry’s single “Roll Over Beethoven,” Geraldine has been an aficionado of blues, jazz, and rock and roll. Given the opportunity to become the white Shakette, she discovers a happiness she never knew existed. Yet when her tour is over and her dream ends, there is no new dream to replace it. Her friends and family urge her to return to school or find a career or at least continue singing but Geraldine is unambitious, eager only to keep her life unchanged. “I don’t want to roll with the times,” she explains to Johnny Miller, a lawyer and former Shakette groupie, before reluctantly agreeing to marry him.

The question of how to remain true to one’s inner life is a theme familiar to Colwin readers. Geraldine resists defining herself by her future goals (she has none) or her Shakette past (it’s over, she argues) but lacks a way to describe herself, even to herself. Ultimately Geraldine finds affirmation for who she is from her child, Little Franklin, and the European refugees she meets at her part-time job.

Although the novel is witty and the writing fresh, the intensely personal nature of Geraldine’s struggle is unconvincing at times. Most of the action of the book takes place in the early-to-mid 1970’s, and yet there is no sense of the outside world--particularly the growing women’s rights movement--influencing her choices. A more informed Geraldine might have made GOODBYE WITHOUT LEAVING as insightful as it is charming.