Monday 26 April 2021

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone by Stephen J Golds @StephenGone58 @RedDogTweets #SayGoodbyWhenI'mGone #BookReview


1949: Rudy, A Jewish New Yorker snatches a briefcase of cash from a dead man in Los Angeles and runs away from his old life, into the arms of the Boston mob.
1966: Hinako, a young Japanese girl runs away from what she thought was the suffocating conformity of a life in Japan. 
Aiming to make a fresh start in America, she falls into the grip of a Hawaiian gang dubbed 'The Company'.1967: 
Rudy and Hinako's lives collide in the city of Honolulu, where there is nowhere left for either of them to run, and only blood to redeem them.

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone by Stephen J Golds was published by Red Dog Press on 24 October 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This novel is just 169 pages long, but every single page is searingly dark, violent and exquisitely written. I never talk about 'triggers' in my reviews, but this story features violent bloody deaths, and not just human deaths. None of it is gratuitous, none of it is written for the 'shock factor', every single horrifying incident within this story is perfectly placed and only goes to show how far the depths of humanity can go. 

The author skips back and forth in time throughout the novel, concentrating on the two main characters. Rudy and Hinako; two people from the opposite ends of life, but who both experience suffering that almost breaks them. 

The story opens in New York City, July 1950. Rudy is in a restaurant, celebrating his daughter Grace's sixteenth birthday. A family affair; Rudy, his wife, Grace and two of their sons. The night begins as a happy joyful occasion although the reader is aware that Rudy is on edge. The celebrations turn to terror and violence and this family will never be the same again. The sins of the father have caught up with them. 

In 1966, Hinako, a young girl is living a drab and dreary life in Japan. She dreams of America and Hollywood. She despises everything about Japan, and the way that people are almost clones of one another. She hates the apartment that she lives in with her almost-silent Mother, her father abandoned them many years ago. When she sees a flyer advertising jobs for Japanese girls in a hotel in the US, she seizes the opportunity. She will leave, she will see the bright lights, she will live her best life. 

Hinako ends up in Hawaii, far away from Hollywood and in a place that is a million times worse than her old life. Her innocence is soon taken from her and her life becomes nothing but a round of violence, screaming and pain, interspersed with the numbness that comes at a price and leaves tracks on her arms. 

Rudy and Hinako's paths cross unexpectedly. Rudy has found refuge in Hawaii, but is a lonely, sad man with many regrets. Hinako sparks memories for him, of his lost family, and he risks everything to try to help her. 

Even though this is such a short novel, the author packs such a lot of history into it. The reader learns everything about both characters; and none of is it pleasant. Interwoven between their stories, we get to know a young boy, alone and damaged by war and what he has seen. This boy grows to be a man who is feared; a dangerous, ruthless man who is turned on by the pain that he can inflict. He is a horrifying creation who is a victim of circumstance, who slips through the net and who goes on to destroy lives.

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone is a stark, dark, brutal and horrific tale of damaged people. It is beautifully written, but often very difficult to read. Not one single word is wasted here and every single page brings new horrors. It is a book that is difficult to forget, with characters who stayed in my thoughts for days after I finished reading. 

Stephen J Golds was born in London, UK, but has lived in Japan for the majority of his adult life.

He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, travelling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs.

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