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On Sale: August 07, 2012
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-385-53619-6
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fiction (12) grief (7) love (5)
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A 2013 Endeavour Award Finalist

When Sam Elling creates an algorithm to pair people with their soul mates online, he meets Meredith, his own perfect match. But when Meredith’s grandmother Livvie dies unexpectedly, Sam puts his algorithm to even better use: it compiles Livvie’s old emails and video chats to create a computer simulation so that Meredith can say goodbye. It’s not supernatural; it’s computer science, and Meredith loves it—too much to keep to herself.

Together, she and Sam open RePose to help others who have lost a loved one. Business takes off, but for every person who just wants to say goodbye, there’s someone else who can’t let go. This twenty-first-century love story asks what would happen if saying goodbye were just the beginning, and shows how love can take on a life of its own.


Excerpted from the Hardcovoer Edition

Killer App

Sam Elling was filling out his online dating profile and trying to decide whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, he had just described himself as “quick to laugh” and had answered the question, “How macho do you consider yourself?” eight on a scale of ten. But on the other hand, the whole thing was really quite frustrating, and no one, he knew, ever admitted to anything less than an eight on the masculinity scale anyway. Sam was trying to come up with five things he couldn’t live without. He knew that many would-be daters cheekily wrote: air, food, water, shelter, plus something else vaguely amusing. (He was thinking Swiss cheese would be a clever addition to that list, or possibly vitamin D, though since he was in Seattle, he seemed, in fact, to be living quite nicely without it.) He could go the techie route—laptop, other laptop, tablet, wifi connection, iPhone—but they’d think he was a computer geek. Never mind that he was; he didn’t want them to know that right away. He could go the sentimental route—framed photo from parents’ wedding, grandfather’s lucky penny, program from his star turn in his middle school production of Grease, acceptance letter to MIT, first mix tape ever made for him by a girl—but he suspected that would belie his reported macho factor. He could go the lactose route: Swiss cheese again (he was clearly craving Swiss cheese for no apparent reason) plus chocolate ice cream, cream cheese, Pagliacci’s pizza, and double tall lattes. It wasn’t really true though. He could live without those; he just wouldn’t like it very much.

The point was this exercise was five things: annoying, prying, cloying, embarrassing, and totally pointless. He didn’t have any hobbies because he worked all the time which was the reason he couldn’t find a date. If he didn’t work all the time (or weren’t a software engineer and so also worked with some women), he would have time for hobbies he could list, but then he wouldn’t need to because he wouldn’t need online dating in order to meet people. Yes, he was a computer geek, but he was also, he thought, smart and funny and reasonably good-looking. He just didn’t have five hobbies or five witty things he couldn’t live without or five interesting things on his bedside table (truthful answer would have been: half-full water glass, quarter-full water glass, empty water glass, crumpled used Kleenex, crumpled used Kleenex) or five revealing hopes for the future (never to have to do this again, repeat times five). Nor did he care about anyone else’s reported hobbies or five requirements for life, bedside tables, or futures. He had already answered variations of these inane questions with another service, dated their dates, and saw what all of this nonsense came to. It came to nonsense. If you picked the ones who seemed pretty down-to-earth (books, writing implement, reading lamp, clock radio, cell phone), you got boring. If you picked the ones who seemed eccentric (yellow rain hat, Polaroid camera, lime seltzer, photo of Gertrude Stein, plastic model of Chairman Mao), you got really weird and full of themselves. If you picked the one who seemed like a good fit (“Laptop and honestly nothing else because that has all I need”), you got a computer geek so much like your college roommate that you wondered if he’d had an unconvincing sex change operation without telling you. So you had your pick of boring, weird, or Trevor Anderson.

Five things Sam couldn’t live without: sarcasm, mockery, scorn, derision, cynicism.

That was not the whole picture, of course. If it were, he wouldn’t be online dating. He would be holed up in a basement apartment somewhere contentedly crotchety on his own (Xbox, Wii, PlayStation, fifty-two-inch plasma flat-screen, microwave nachos). Instead, he was putting himself out there again. Did this not indicate optimism re: love? (hope, good cheer, warmth, generosity, the promise of someone to kiss good night). Maybe, but it was way too cheesy to write on the stupid form.

The problem with the stupid form was this: it wasn’t just that people didn’t tell the truth—though they didn’t. It was that there was no way to tell the truth, even if you wanted to. Things on a bedside table do not reveal a soul. Hopes for the future cannot be distilled for forms or strangers. Fill-in-the-blank questions are fun but not really indicative of the long-term future of a relationship. (They aren’t really that fun either.) Even the stuff with straightforward answers fails to reveal what you need to know. For instance, Sam wanted to date a woman who could and would cook and enjoy it, but it couldn’t be because she was some kind of domestic goddess who required a clean house all the time (Sam was not neat), and it couldn’t be because she believed a woman’s place was in the home and she should cater to her man (Sam was a feminist), and it couldn’t be because she was one of those people who ate only organic, sustainable, locally grown, chemical-free, ecologically responsible, whole, raw, vegan food (see above re: Sam’s love of dairy). It had to be because Sam didn’t cook and she did and they both needed to eat, and he would take on some other household chore like dish washing or clothes folding or bathroom scrubbing in exchange. There was no place for all that on the form or even a place to indicate that he was the kind of man who considered such bizarre minutiae relevant.

And yet, a man has needs. And not the ones you think. Well, those too, but they weren’t foremost on Sam’s mind. Foremost on Sam’s mind was it would be nice to have someone to go out to dinner with on Friday nights and to wake up with on Saturday mornings and to go with him to museums and movies and plays and parties and restaurants and ball games and on long weekends away, day hikes, ski trips, parental visits, wine tastings, and work functions. It was this last which was especially pressing for Sam, who worked at the online dating company whose form was causing him so much grief. It employed many swank and high-powered people—most of them male—who brought many swank and high-powered people—most of them female—to their many swank and high-powered black-tie galas. Sam did not own a tie of any color until he got this job, was himself neither swank nor high-powered, and felt strongly that a job as a software engineer in a three-walled cubicle surrounded by other software engineers with their obscure math T-shirts and Star Trek action figures and seven-sided Rubik’s cubes should have absolved him from these sorts of work pressures. But the lawyers and VPs and CFOs and VIPs and investors wrecked the curve, and besides, it was an online dating company—showing up to these functions solo was a bad career move. Sam spent these evenings in his too-stiff tuxedo making awkward private jokes with his awkward single software engineering compatriots, sipping free vodka tonics and worrying that he’d never find true love.

In high school in Baltimore, when Holly Palentine saw through his geeky exterior to the cool heart that beat beneath and agreed first to dance with him at homecoming and then to let him take her to dinner and a movie and then to hang out in his basement most afternoons after school making out, Sam had assumed he would marry his high school sweetheart. He remembered dancing close with her at the spring formal and imagining what they’d look like on their wedding day. Then she sent him a letter from the Girl Scout camp where she was a counselor asking if they could still be friends. Still? Sam hadn’t realized this had ever been in question. In college at MIT, he had tried late-night hookups in the dorm and girls who flirted with him at parties and falling madly in love with the barista at Shot Through the Heart (though he had not tried talking to her) and a year-and-a-half real, adult relationship with Della Bassette, who then graduated and left for three years of volunteer corps in Zimbabwe, and another year and a half of true rock-solid start-thinking-about-engagement-rings love with Jenny O’Dowd, who really did love him and want to be with him forever except she accidentally also hooked up with his roommate the semester before graduation. Twice. Then Sam tried being alone, being alone far less likely to result in the crushing of his soul and atom-splitting of his heart. He tried not caring and not risking and not looking, hanging out with guy friends, solo vacations, self-growth, and canceling cable. None of that worked either. Not being in love did mean he was less likely to get hurt. But he honestly didn’t see the point.

He didn’t see the point not because he was one of those people who always, always had to be paired up, and not because he didn’t think of himself as whole without a partner, and not because otherwise it was too hard to have sex, but because when he wasn’t spending time with people he loved, Sam found he was spending a lot of time with people he didn’t. His work colleagues were fine at work, but they didn’t have much to talk about when they went out afterward. Happy hour with friends he’d lost touch with since college reminded him why he’d lost touch with them. Small talk at parties held by friends of friends meant a lot of pretending to think interesting a lot of things he didn’t think were interesting.

When he left the East Coast for Seattle, Sam tried internet dating and couldn’t believe he’d been alive for thirty-two and a half years and never thought to before. Sam believed in computers and programming, in codable information, in algorithms and numbers and logic. His father was also a software engineer as well as a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University, so Sam was raised to believe: computers were his religion. Everyone else pitched online dating as the only option after not meeting anyone in the vast ocean of college. But Sam liked online dating because it took away the mystery. Maybe you met someone and liked her and she liked you and you hit it off and you started dating and that went pretty well and you got closer and closer, shared more and more, starting building lives around each other, fell deeply in love, and still she slept with your roommate when you went home for the weekend. Computers would never allow for such outlying variance.

Online dating had yet to work for Sam. But it did pay well. And that came in a close second as it turned out. One too-pretty-to-go-to-work morning in June, Sam’s whole team got a sheepish text from their boss. “Fair warning,” Jamie wrote. “BB’s agenda for OOF today: Quantify the Human Heart.” Jamie referred to the company’s enormously important CEO, his boss’s boss, as BB. Sam loved him for this. BB had recently decreed that each team would begin every morning with a stand-up meeting, the idea being that the company wasn’t wasting its brilliant programmers’ time with a real meeting but only a brief encounter in the hallway. Generally, this meant it was the length of an actual meeting but without the comfort of chairs and a Danish. Jamie therefore called it OOF, theoretically for On Our Feet, though actually for how those feet felt at the end of the meeting. Sam loved Jamie for this too. Also because he wasn’t a superstickler for punctuality, which gave Sam time to run back inside his apartment and change into more comfortable shoes.

“So here’s the story,” Jamie began when Sam got there. “BB thinks we need a better bottom line. Some online matchmaking sites promise ‘most fun dates.’ Some boast ‘highest percentage of marriages.’ BB wants to up the ante. Too many dates end in failure. Too many marriages end in divorce. What’s better than dating and better than marriage?”

“Friends with benefits?” guessed Nigel from Australia.

“Soul mates,” said Jamie. “BB wants an algorithm that will find your soul mate. Therefore I turn to you. Love is a tricky thing. All that human variable. The soul is not logical. The heart wants what the heart wants. Hard to nail down. Hard to quantify and program. But we are computer programmers, and this is our job. So we must. Tell me how.”

“Increase the odds of getting laid,” said Nigel. “Looser dates lead to more and earlier hooking up. The farther you go on a first date, the more information you have about sexual compatibility.”

“Won’t work,” objected Rajiv from New Delhi. “Dating sucks.” On this, the software engineers, save Nigel, were in agreement.

“It’s not fun,” said Gaurav from Mumbai.

“It’s very awkward,” said Arnab from Assam.

“And it’s all lies,” said Jayaraj from Chennai. Five Indian states Sam had become an expert on since beginning work as a software engineer: Delhi, Assam, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal. “You are so much worse on a date than you are in real life,” Jayaraj continued. “You can’t string two sentences together without sounding like some kind of idiot. You stammer and bring up awkward topics and embarrass yourself a lot. You’re not really like that in real life.”

“Or you present yourself as better than you really are,” Sam added, “which is also a lie. You get all dressed up and do your hair and put on makeup when really you’re going to walk around the house in yoga clothes and a scrunchie all day.”

“Makeup?” Jamie raised an eyebrow at him.

“Scrunchie?” wondered Jayaraj.

“We need a third party,” offered Arnab, “like the Hindu astrologers who know everyone in the village for generations and thus make marriages at birth that last until death.”

“Many cultures have matchmakers. Japanese nakodos. Jewish shadchens.” Gaurav had been an anthropology major at UC Santa Cruz. “There are aeons of precedent. They realize a truth.”

“Which is?” asked Jamie.

“Who people think they are and what people think they want is not really who they are or what they want,” said Gaurav sagely. “Wise and sometimes magical elders set you up based on who you really are and who would be good for you instead.”

“I have no magical elders,” said Jamie.

“No, you have something better,” said Sam. “Computer programmers. We could dig a little deeper into the data users provide. See what it says about them rather than what they say about themselves.”

Everyone’s feet were getting tired, so digging deeper seemed worth a shot. “Accusing our customers of lying,” Jamie said. “I’m sure BB will love it.”

Sam stopped for coffee on the way back to his desk. (Five places within seven hundred feet of Sam’s desk to get a world-class double tall latte: the espresso stand on the second floor, the espresso stand on the fourteenth floor, the cafeteria, the coffee shop in the lobby of the Fifth Avenue entrance, the coffee shop in the lobby of the Fourth Avenue entrance. Sam loved Seattle.) Then he sat down and considered where, if not on online dating forms, people revealed the truth about themselves. He messaged Jamie: “Can I have access to clients’ financial records?”

Jamie wrote back right away. “Accusing our customers of lying and invading their privacy. BB’s going to love that too.”

First surefire proof Sam had that users were lying about themselves: everyone everywhere was always having a fit over internet privacy concerns, but promise to find them love or at least sex, and they signed access to their financial records, credit card statements, e-mail accounts, and everything else over to Sam just because he asked nicely. There he saw them not as they represented themselves but as they really were. He saw that they said their five favorite foods were organic blueberries, wheatgrass smoothies, red quinoa, tempeh Reubens, and beluga caviar, but they spent an average of $47.40 a month last year at the 7-Eleven. He saw that the five things they listed on their nightstand were all foreign film DVDs, but they saw Shrek Forever After in 3-D twice in theaters and spent the week of the foreign film festival hanging out with their old college roommates at a dude ranch in Wyoming. He noted that they said they liked to write poetry and short stories and even included a quote from Ulysses in their profile, but Sam analyzed their e-mails and knew they were in the bottom twelve percent of adjective users and had no idea how to use a semicolon. Everyone lied. It wasn’t malicious or even on purpose usually. They weren’t so much misrepresenting themselves as just plain wrong. How they saw themselves and how they really were turned out to be pretty far apart.

Sam was a romantic, yes, but he was also a software engineer, and since he was better at the latter, he played to his strengths. For two weeks straight, he worked obsessively on an algorithm that figured out who you really were. It ignored the form you filled out yourself in favor of reading your spending reports and bank statements and e-mails. It read your chat histories and text messages, your posts and status updates. It read your blog and what you posted on other people’s blogs. It looked at what you bought online, what you read online, what you studiously avoided online. It ignored who you said you were and who you said you wanted in favor of who you really were and who you really wanted. Sam mixed the ancient traditions of the matchmakers plus the truths users revealed but did not admit about themselves combined with the power of modern data processors and made the algorithm that changed the dating world. He cracked the code to your heart.

His teammates were impressed. Jamie was pleased. But BB was thrilled with the algorithm, especially once he saw the proof of concept demos and how incredibly, unbelievably well it would work.

“We’ll get you down to just one date!” BB enthused. “That’s all it will take. Talk about killer apps!”
Laurie Frankel|Author Q&A

About Laurie Frankel

Laurie Frankel - Goodbye for Now

Photo © Charis Brice

Laurie Frankel is the author of one previous novel, The Atlas of Love. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, son, and border collie.

Author Q&A

How did you become a writer?
I think it boils down to two things. The first is I read. Constantly and widely. This one started early and has yet to abate. When I was little, my parents read to me every night before bed, and that became habit that’s served me well. I was one of those kids who always had a book in her hand. And I am one of those adults as well. I am never not reading something. I finish a book and immediately pick up the next one. Sometimes I have students tell me that they want to be writers, but they don’t like to read, and I just say no, sorry, not an option, not even a possibility.
The other thing that made me a writer was I sat down one summer to try to write a novel. I don’t think there’s any way to know whether or not you can write a novel without trying it. When I wrote the last chapter of the first draft of my first novel, I did a word count, and lo and behold, it was novel length. That’s when I knew I could write a book—when I’d already drafted one. (And I was ecstatic.)
What was the most challenging thing about writing Goodbye for Now?
You know, it sounds ridiculous to say this, but it was really sad. You’d think since I was writing a book about loss, death, and mourning I would have expected that, and I did to some extent, but I wasn’t expecting how sad I would feel about it. I kept telling myself, “These people aren’t real. You made them up,” but that didn’t cheer me up. People I’d come to know well and to love died while I was writing this book, and that was very hard for me, and the fact that they were people who existed in my head and nowhere else didn’t matter. You have to be all-in to write a novel, emotionally invested, committed to the characters as people, and so when they hurt, as when anyone you love hurts, it’s hard.
In what ways do you feel your role as a creative writing teacher has affected your own work?
Putting into words what you seem to do by instinct is always a great practice. At first, I thought I’d have a really hard time teaching creative writing because I had the sense that I don’t know how I write, I just do it. That’s less true than it seemed at first though. In fact, when I make myself think about it—as I had to when I was teaching—there are lots of rules, tricks, useful paths, important things to consider, approaches that work, ways to surmount challenges on the page, points to keep in mind. It was very helpful for me to articulate all of that. I’d often find myself preaching something in the classroom and then thinking, “Hey, that’s true. That’s a great point. I should do that.”
The characters in Goodbye for Now feel incredibly real—how do you go about creating them?
Thank you. I’m so glad you think so. I think every writer says this, so it seems like a cliché, but it’s true: they are real people in my head. I get to know them as I write them and rewrite them and rewrite them. Authors spend years working forty-plus hour weeks with their characters, so maybe they’re more like coworkers. That’s a lot of time to spend with anyone, even someone you’ve made up, and so you become quite close, and they, in turn, become quite real. How many people in your life do you know so well you always know what they’re going to say next? Not right away, but eventually, I have that relationship with all of my characters. That’s the key to creating them I think—really getting to know their voices, hearing them loud and clear, nailing that dialogue. Dialogue is my favorite part.
If it were possible to invent a computer program like RePose, how would you feel about using it?
Such a good question, and one you’d think I, of all people, could answer for sure. But I’m not sure. I came up with the idea for RePose years before I came up with the idea for the novel. My grandmother and I were very close, and we emailed one another regularly. When she died, I knew I couldn’t have her back, but it made so much sense to me that a clever computer programmer could fake her emails and send them to me and that that way I’d get to keep a little piece of her. I thought that was such a good idea I was almost angry the software didn’t exist. Then, years later, I started writing a novel about it and realizing all the ways that technology would be problematic at the very least and often quite devastating or maddening. So in some ways, I talked myself out of the technology once I started to explore it. In the end though, I think I’d still use it—maybe not the video chat option but the email for sure.
What do you see as being the best and the worst things about the way our use of technology is changing?
Our connectivity with one another is breathtaking. For me, the best thing is hearing from readers. So many people I’d never otherwise meet or hear from email me or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter to tell me they’ve liked a book of mine, and that means the world to me. It’s amazing to be able to write back and say thank you and also to keep in touch with readers—to be able to pass on writing tips or an article that relates to something in the book by posting it to my Facebook wall. And that’s true for all of us, personally and professionally. We get to keep in touch and make connections and meet people we never would without these technologies, and in lots of ways, that makes for a smaller world and a more connected humanity and a lot of cute pictures of people’s puppies.
But, often I feel I give up real connections with my closest friends in exchange for surface, electronic connections with people I lost touch with for a reason. I spend so much time online I don’t have time for my offline—a.k.a. “real”—life. And though those distinctions—on- and offline, real and virtual—are losing meaning by the moment, they hold something important at their heart. I don’t want Facebook to replace getting coffee with a friend. I don’t want reading blogs to replace reading books. And I know, I know, everyone says I could do both. And I could. Just as soon as I learn to do without sleep, my four-year-old starts self-entertaining, and my groceries buy and cook themselves. I can’t wait! Meantime, balancing these pressures is a challenge, and thinking of socializing as a pressure—instead of a joy and a release and well-earned time off to laugh with friends—strikes me as a high price to pay for all that connectivity.
What are you planning to write next?
I’m working on something, a novel, but I’m not completely sold yet. I’ve got a few other ideas I can’t quite let go of. It’s hard to settle on one. The starts of new projects are always big buckets of impossible decisions for me, and decision making is not my strong suit, so I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m writing next, but I’m so grateful that you’re interested, and I’ll keep you posted.



Praise for Laurie Frankel's Goodbye for Now:

“Frankel’s clever and well-considered second novel extends the reach of technology just beyond our fingertips, where it feels possible.”
The New York Times
“Clever, funny, moving, intelligent, Goodbye For Now is about love and loss, real live emotions and human relationships in a cyber world taken to its extreme. Will Laurie Frankel’s wonderful book capture your heart and imagination? Absolutely. You will laugh; you will cry. And you will probably start video chatting with your loved ones daily, just in case an inspired computer genius jumps on Frankel’s idea.”
—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“It’s a book that will grip you, make you laugh and possibly cry, and make you think. . . . Frankel spins a story of a brilliant software genius who invents an algorithm that resurrects the image, voice and words of his grieving girlfriend’s dead grandmother. . . . These are characters worth reading about: the two quirky, sweet-natured principals are surrounded by colorful people. . . . Let it just be said that the events unleash enough tears to rival Seattle’s annual rainfall. And yet, Goodbye for Now is still hopeful and thoughtful and securely rooted in a belief in the essential goodness of which people are capable.”
The Seattle Times
The Social Network meets One Day in an attractive love-and-loss story that applies new technology to the job of soothing broken hearts.”
Kirkus Reviews

“If you like your love stories modern, clever, and a little weepy (think One Day), you will adore this.”

“Computer science flirts with sci-fi when a programmer creates software that (almost) lets the living talk with the departed.”
Sacramento Bee

Goodbye For Now is a fabulous, original read—very funny, yet so sad and thought-provoking too. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Liane Moriarty, bestselling author of What Alice Forgot

“Somewhere in the middle of Goodbye For Now, I found myself getting angry at Laurie Frankel for moving so seamlessly between hilarious and devastating, and for making me feel so deeply for her characters. I offer this as both recommendation and warning: this book will engross you and affect you, and you should know that you won’t be putting it down unchanged.”
—Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel and The Nobodies Album

“A smart, engaging novel that will make even the most skeptical online dating holdout reconsider. That's because Seattle-based author Laurie Frankel has written a love story featuring loveable characters and a premise so intriguing you hope someone will actually invent the computer program at the heart of this tale.. . . . The strength of Frankel’s story is that she tackles big questions surrounding grief. . . . A perfect end-of-summer cottage read. As a writer, Frankel is literate, funny and at times poignant.”
Toronto Star

“There’s no denying Frankel’s warmth, wit and ingenuity in this cleverly conceived charmer.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Frankel tells a touching story of how this young couple deals with a new love in a world full of loss and sadness. Her first novel, The Atlas of Love, was a wonderful, heartfelt read, and while this book has a completely different story line, it retains that emotional core. Frankel is an author to watch and definitely to keep in stock.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Frankel addresses thorny questions with thought and care.”
Publishers Weekly

“Frankel presents a fascinating concept as she keenly and sensitively explores themes of love and loss in this tearjerker centered on technology that pushes the boundaries of artificial intelligence. A compelling novel that tugs at the heartstrings; keep tissues handy.”
Booklist (starred review)

“An ingenious emotional riptide of a story that leaves your heart drifting in the gulf between losing a loved one and actually letting them go.”
—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Frankel is unafraid to take on big questions as she weaves together her entertaining and thought-provoking story. The result is an imaginative tale that explores life, love and what lasts.”

“Brilliantly unsettling. . . . This is an unforgettable, heartbreaking novel about love after death, and is impossible to put down.”
Image (UK)

“A thought-provoking 2012 love story well-told.”
Company (UK)

“Beautifully written . . . brilliant.”
Heat (UK), 5 stars

Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Goodbye for Now, Laurie Frankel’s engrossing and thought-provoking love story in an age of technology.

About the Guide

“Frankel’s clever and well-considered second novel extends the reach of technology just beyond our fingertips, where it feels possible.” —The New York Times

When Sam Elling creates an algorithm to pair people with their soul mates online, he meets Meredith, his own perfect match. But when Meredith’s grandmother Livvie dies unexpectedly, Sam puts his algorithm to even better use: it compiles Livvie’s old e-mails and video chats to create a computer simulation so that Meredith can say goodbye. It’s not supernatural; it’s computer science, and Meredith loves it—too much to keep to herself. 

Together, she and Sam open RePose to help others who have lost a loved one. Business takes off, but for every person who just wants to say goodbye, there’s someone else who can’t let go. This twenty-first-century love story asks what would happen if saying goodbye were just the beginning, and shows how love can take on a life of its own.

About the Author

Laurie Frankel is the author of one previous novel, The Atlas of Love. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, son, and border collie.

Discussion Guides

1. From the algorithm to pair you with your one true love to the technology used by RePose, does the technology in this book seem possible?

2. How much of your identity is online? If RePose existed, how well do you think you could be re-created based on your online archive? How is the picture of you presented on Facebook or Twitter or other social media sites an accurate one, and how is it less accurate?

3. How much of your social time is spent socializing online? How do social networking sites make socializing easier and more fun? And how do they make it harder and less fun?

4. If RePose existed, would you use it? Who would you contact? Would you video chat or just e-mail? What would you say if you could?

5. What should happen to our online identities—our Facebook pages and old e-mails and video chats and Twitter feeds and archived texts and blogs, etc.—after we die? How can social media help the loved ones we leave behind?

6. RePose takes heat from the press and from religious groups. What do you think those groups’ reactions would be if this technology existed? Are their concerns legitimate?

7. Why does Meredith start to become disillusioned with the virtual Livvie?

8. For which of their clients does RePose seem to work best? And for whom does it work less well? What seems to make the difference?

9. Who is your favorite RePose user? Who grows and changes the most over the course of the novel?

10. Do Dash and Meredith seem like family? They are very different, but what do they have in common?

11. While there is a lot of loss, what do you think is gained here? What new love does RePose bring about?

12. Whose method of mourning do you relate to more: Sam's or his dad's?

13. Why does Sam tell Julia she can’t RePose? Is he right or wrong to deny her the chance to speak with her daughter again?

14. Meredith is the only projection you know both before and after death, so she’s your chance to see whether RePose really works. Does it? Is Meredith’s projection a good likeness of her? A satisfying one? When she says things she’s said before, do you feel more joy at remembering or despair at her loss?

15. Penny and Josh both argue that RePose is for the dying. Who benefits most from RePose—the dying, the living, or the dead? How does it help each of those groups?

16. Sam feels that he’s been forgiven at the very end of the novel. What sins does he think he’s committed, and do you agree? Should he be sorry? How can he make amends?

17. Why does Meredith get the last word? What hope does she offer?

Suggested Readings

One Day by David Nicholls; PS, I Love You by Cecilia Ahern, Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes; The Memory Thief by Emiiyl Colin; This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

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