Goodbye Sweetheart

Marion Halligan

Goodbye Sweetheart
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Goodbye Sweetheart

Marion Halligan

A successful lawyer, bon vivant, loving husband and father, has a heart attack and dies while swimming in the local pool. A man apparently happily married, yet, with two divorces behind him and three puzzled children. In death it seems that he is not the person everyone thought. As his extended family gathers to mourn, secrets and lies unfold uncomfortably around them. Those pornographic images on his laptop? An unexpected lover - is he still philandering? But somewhere in the turmoil of mourning each of them has to find an answer to the question - who was this man really? What mysteries has he taken to the grave with him?

Goodbye Sweetheart is a powerful novel of love, the desire for understanding, and the inevitable messiness of life.


This melancholic tale questions notions of security and knowledge in relationships. The protagonist, a successful lawyer, dies suddenly leaving behind his wife, his past wives, his lover, his kids and his brother. Each of these people has their own version of his life, his motivations and his passions. Is this enough for a novel? Perhaps, if we don’t think in a traditional way about how a novel should be structured but rather enjoy each heartbreaking vignette for what it is: a voyeristic glimpse into shared moments of happiness and of eventual grief.

Tolstoy said that happy families are all alike but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, and ultimately Goodbye Sweetheart is an example of this maxim. It is a work about a family, unhappy in parts, but a family that survives betrayal, grief and in the end endures the most heart-wrenching trial of all: the truth.

Chris Gordon is the Events Manager for Readings. She blogs about food and gardening at Open Space Outside and puts together the food and gardening column for the Readings Monthly.

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