Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Three young men created their own history in 1969 when they decided to attend a monumental and historical event called Woodstock. The memories precious, the songs, music and experiences a once in a lifetime occurrence where so many gathered to sings, search and hope for peace and enlighten the word to the many social, environmental and political causes of the times. Creative and freedom of expression has often been stifled but this event was so remarkable so amazing that those that attended would never forget what they saw and experienced. Meet Sparky, Buck and Josh, three close friends yet somehow strangers now who will take you back in time along with author Michael Murphy to a time when smoking joints, marijuana, drinking, living free and just enjoying life was more than just a pastime it was a way of life. Goodbye Emily is a novel that reminds us of how precious friendships are and how going back in time, remembering someone that was dear to us will help us deal with the life we forgot we still have in the present.
There is much more to this novel than just going to Woodstock and remembering the past. It is about a woman named Emily that meant more than the world to a Professor named Walt, his feelings of loss, despair and sadness associated with losing a spouse and not really knowing or having a real direction to move on. With a daughter that cares for him, encourages him to get out and do more than just smoke, drink and waste away his life, Walt needs to reassess not only his health which is in dire need or repair, his diet, his mental attitude but his personal goals in life. A trip to the doctor or ER proved to be quite enlightening and the end result made him realize he needed to make some changes or it might cost him his life. Deciding to make that list of life’s stresses suggested by the doctor, he decides to see an old friend, settle their differences and find out the answer to one question that has been bothering him for too long. When one friendship was renewed another would remain unsettled until two old friends decide to find out what happened to the third member team or in this case their band. Josh is the third friend and like my mom he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which brings along with it a death sentence to the patient. Slowly and methodically this illness wears away at the brain if its intended victim showing absolutely no mercy. But, when family and friends like Buck and Walt come to see Josh at the assisted living where he now lives, it does make a difference and the sight of familiar faces, although they might not always recognize you does make a difference. Walt and Buck find different meaning in seeing Josh and what Walt realizes opens his own eyes to what he must do for himself.
Woodstock Music and Art Fair was amazing and for those that saw the billboards they were titled: “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” from August 15-18, 1969. Imagine the crowds, the scents in the air, and the music of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and many more. So, what would happen if these three friends decided to do it all over again? But, first the author takes us back to when Emily and Walt meet and allows the reader to experience their time at Woodstock, their romance and their life together. Then a special teenage girl comes into his life wanting to jam or play guitar with him and things change for Walt. Added in the job that he loved so much and was fired from has been reoffered to him again with many more responsibilities and salary. Just what he will do still remains to be seen.
Heather is a special teen and her mom; Meagan seems to have the right personality to deal with Walt. Living next door to someone does not make you their friend when you isolate yourself from the world and much more. As Walt has exactly 24 hours to show his daughter that he can fend for himself, eat properly hoping she will take the job she was offered and not worry about him. So, off to try the treadmill and his first effort at exercising as the author takes the reader back in time to Woodstock and Emily once again. The music, the artists, the drugs, the smoking and the love all embraced them both.
Three steps ahead yet one immovable as Walt, Buck and Heather manage to rekindle some of Josh’s memories with their music. Dealing with Alzheimer’s I know it has no cure but long memories can often come to light and for a short time the person just might have a great memory from their past. Not withstanding what the doctor at the facility said and not wanting to give up Walt decides to convince Buck to revisit Woodstock and find a way to bring Josh too. Just how they are going to pull this off you just won’t believe and will he convince his daughter that he has changed his ways, get rid of the bourbon first.
Reliving a special experience with Emily, the knowledge that she might be involved with someone else, the altercation with her friend Crystal and the hope of a future together as the present comes back into focus. Then, the memories, the shrine in his home and finally coming face to face with some realities as he finally agrees to take Emily’s ashes off the mantle and scatter them in Bethel at the site of the festival where it all began.
Taking Josh for an outing and trying to help him remember proved great for him but not for both Sparky and Buck as Josh’s mother refused to understand the good in their intentions. The end result was more than just a confrontation and Walt/Sparky would not give up. Everyone needs to feel useful, productive and treated as if they understand and not the way she was treating Josh. So, how will they get him out to join them on their road trip? What will the final outcome be? As we relive Josh’s past, his dealings with drugs, acid and his journey back to the present where his neighbor’s condition begins to mirror his own. Then learning more about Emily, the note she left and his initial disappointment. The author flashes back to the past in his dreams and then often when he reflects in the present doing it in such a way making the events in the past and the present blend so evenly together and easy to follow. As once again we hear Emily’s voice when Walt refuses to give up and goes in search of finding her. Meeting her family and learning why she left and did not wait for his return endears her even more to him as we hear his voice in the present with his scheme to kidnap Josh and take him along with Cloe and Buck to Woodstock and finally say Goodbye to Emily but not before we find out what happens when they break Josh out, get help from someone within the facility and the group in a van that is definitely right up there with those from the 60’s takes a road trip that no one including the reader will ever forget. But, not everything is cut and dry or even black and white when Buck and Walt get Josh into the van the police on their tail, an APB out for their arrest if they do not return Josh to the home within two hours what happens will definitely bring more than just smiles to your face and help you understanding the true meaning of friendship. But sometimes those that appear to be your friends are not and the final result was not what he expected. Accused of kidnapping and arrested Sparky just wanted to do something for Josh and the end result of his efforts have yet to be decided but the trip in itself is really quite comical, fun and the Buck Naked Band: Can you hear the music of the sixties? Can you hear them play?
An ending that will bring tears to your eyes and a smile on your face as Sparky, Buck, Cloe, Lady, Josh and even more make their way one more time to relive those special three days. What happens and if they really succeed? What will the final note be in Josh’s life? A farewell so fitting you won’t believe the ending. Goodbye Emily: Peace Out !
Fran Lewis: Reviewer : Five Golden Songs from the 60’s and One Gold Peace Sign.