Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel
Sam Elling is a self-professed computer geek who works at an Internet dating company. He’s had trouble finding someone, so when his company asks them to develop something cutting edge, he creates an algorithm that goes behind what people actually say in online profiles and determines who they really are, then sets them up with their soul mate. He tests it out on himself and is matched up with Meredith, who in fact does end up being the perfect woman for him.
Unfortunately, meeting is the only happy part to kick off Sam and Meredith’s relationship. The program Sam created works too well and is costing the company money, so he’s fired. Right after that, Meredith’s beloved grandmother, Livvie, dies. She’s devastated and Sam’s unemployed, so he begins tinkering with his algorithm to see if the same concept can apply.
He ends up developing a program that can take their electronic correspondence and reply to Meredith’s e-mails as if it was Livvie replying. At first that’s enough for Meredith, but she and Sam decide to take it a step further and see if the technology can work with their past video-chat sessions. It does, and the development of RePose, the technology, forever changes Sam and Meredith’s lives, and not necessarily for the better.
I initially picked up the book because I enjoy reading novels that have the main characters meet online (I met my husband on Match.com). I continued reading the book because the idea of RePose as something that could legitimately be used for good fascinated me. Would I want to talk to a loved one after they’re gone, or would it make the grieving process too difficult?
Frankel doesn’t overwhelm readers with technical jargon, and it works to the benefit of the novel. Readers are left to trust Sam’s ability to create the necessary programming, and we don’t need to hear the hows and whys of it working; it just needs to.
While I initially didn’t feel as close to Meredith as a character as I did Sam, I grew invested in them as a couple. I also grew invested in RePose as it grew from a simple idea Sam had into something so much more. The characters and the technology together made for a great novel that was at times touching and sweet, at times sad and frustrating, and always kept you thinking. Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, calls it “an ingenious emotional riptide…” and I agree 100%. You definitely need to add this title to your shelves.
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