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Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival

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In this brave and beautiful memoir, written with the raw honesty and devastating openness of The Glass Castle and The Liar’s Club, a woman chronicles how her marriage devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why she endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke In this brave and beautiful memoir, written with the raw honesty and devastating openness of The Glass Castle and The Liar’s Club, a woman chronicles how her marriage devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why she endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke free. "You made me hit you in the face," he said mournfully. "Now everyone is going to know." "I know," I said. "I’m sorry." Kelly Sundberg’s husband, Caleb, was a funny, warm, supportive man and a wonderful father to their little boy Reed. He was also vengeful and violent. But Sundberg did not know that when she fell in love, and for years told herself he would get better. It took a decade for her to ultimately accept that the partnership she desired could not work with such a broken man. In her remarkable book, she offers an intimate record of the joys and terrors that accompanied her long, difficult awakening, and presents a haunting, heartbreaking glimpse into why women remain too long in dangerous relationships. To understand herself and her violent marriage, Sundberg looks to her childhood in Salmon, a small, isolated mountain community known as the most redneck town in Idaho. Like her marriage, Salmon is a place of deep contradictions, where Mormon ranchers and hippie back-to-landers live side-by-side; a place of magical beauty riven by secret brutality; a place that takes pride in its individualism and rugged self-sufficiency, yet is beholden to church and communal standards at all costs. Mesmerizing and poetic, Goodbye, Sweet Girl is a harrowing, cautionary, and ultimately redemptive tale that brilliantly illuminates one woman’s transformation as she gradually rejects the painful reality of her violent life at the hands of the man who is supposed to cherish her, begins to accept responsibility for herself, and learns to believe that she deserves better.


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In this brave and beautiful memoir, written with the raw honesty and devastating openness of The Glass Castle and The Liar’s Club, a woman chronicles how her marriage devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why she endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke In this brave and beautiful memoir, written with the raw honesty and devastating openness of The Glass Castle and The Liar’s Club, a woman chronicles how her marriage devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why she endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke free. "You made me hit you in the face," he said mournfully. "Now everyone is going to know." "I know," I said. "I’m sorry." Kelly Sundberg’s husband, Caleb, was a funny, warm, supportive man and a wonderful father to their little boy Reed. He was also vengeful and violent. But Sundberg did not know that when she fell in love, and for years told herself he would get better. It took a decade for her to ultimately accept that the partnership she desired could not work with such a broken man. In her remarkable book, she offers an intimate record of the joys and terrors that accompanied her long, difficult awakening, and presents a haunting, heartbreaking glimpse into why women remain too long in dangerous relationships. To understand herself and her violent marriage, Sundberg looks to her childhood in Salmon, a small, isolated mountain community known as the most redneck town in Idaho. Like her marriage, Salmon is a place of deep contradictions, where Mormon ranchers and hippie back-to-landers live side-by-side; a place of magical beauty riven by secret brutality; a place that takes pride in its individualism and rugged self-sufficiency, yet is beholden to church and communal standards at all costs. Mesmerizing and poetic, Goodbye, Sweet Girl is a harrowing, cautionary, and ultimately redemptive tale that brilliantly illuminates one woman’s transformation as she gradually rejects the painful reality of her violent life at the hands of the man who is supposed to cherish her, begins to accept responsibility for herself, and learns to believe that she deserves better.

30 review for Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    It is a hell of a thing to write about brutality and suffering with strength, grace, generosity and beauty. That’s precisely what Kelly Sundberg has done in her gripping memoir about marriage and domestic violence. Sundberg’s honesty is astonishing, how she laid so much of herself bare, how she did not demonize a man who deserves to be demonized. Instead, she offers a portrait of a broken man and a broken marriage and an abiding love, what it took to set herself free from it all. In shimmering, It is a hell of a thing to write about brutality and suffering with strength, grace, generosity and beauty. That’s precisely what Kelly Sundberg has done in her gripping memoir about marriage and domestic violence. Sundberg’s honesty is astonishing, how she laid so much of herself bare, how she did not demonize a man who deserves to be demonized. Instead, she offers a portrait of a broken man and a broken marriage and an abiding love, what it took to set herself free from it all. In shimmering, open hearted prose, she shows that it took everything. Also Caleb is trash. Fuck him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Thomas

    I have taught Sundberg's "It Will Look Like a Sunset" in my composition classes ever since the essay came out. Every semester, the essay enables important discussions about abuse, agency, and craft. Every semester, I have students who feel empowered enough to share their story. Every semester, I have students who say that this essay changed their way of thinking. This is the power of Sundberg's work: it is both beautifully written while simultaneously holding an important conversation about viol I have taught Sundberg's "It Will Look Like a Sunset" in my composition classes ever since the essay came out. Every semester, the essay enables important discussions about abuse, agency, and craft. Every semester, I have students who feel empowered enough to share their story. Every semester, I have students who say that this essay changed their way of thinking. This is the power of Sundberg's work: it is both beautifully written while simultaneously holding an important conversation about violence, abuse, power, and gender. In other words, it is art, and it has the power to change lives. Her masterful memoir Goodbye, Sweet Girl is no different. This memoir about abuse and survival moved me from the first chapter (I cried in a doctor's waiting room) and never let up. I woke up early every morning so I could finish the advance copy (the last few chapters are especially moving) and found myself crying for and cheering for Sundberg. What a beautiful work!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jane Eaton Hamilton

    Sometimes I want to let a book sit with me. I have to let it sink in deeply and observe how it feels in my tissues and bones before I write about it. First off, let me say that Kelly Sundberg is a courageous, talented, skilled and generous writer--it's why I've so admired her blog through the years. You are in good hands here, readers. Kelly Sundberg was married to a mercurial, abusive writer who was, at the beginning, ahead of her on the success scale. As that scale tipped, and envy got hold of Sometimes I want to let a book sit with me. I have to let it sink in deeply and observe how it feels in my tissues and bones before I write about it. First off, let me say that Kelly Sundberg is a courageous, talented, skilled and generous writer--it's why I've so admired her blog through the years. You are in good hands here, readers. Kelly Sundberg was married to a mercurial, abusive writer who was, at the beginning, ahead of her on the success scale. As that scale tipped, and envy got hold of him, Caleb deteriorated. He was determined to beat his own demons out on his wife's body. Kelly tried everything to please him, but nothing worked. Batterers choose to abuse, of course, and Caleb chose to abuse Kelly, over and over again. The couples' times of peaceable good relations were always followed by mounting tension, abuse, and a new cycle of remorse, apology and quiescence. Batterers aren't just monsters; most give years of intermittent rewards and bonding reinforcements, and those sweetnesses are so lovely that a person would stay put through almost anything to get to them again. The nice guy? He's the real guy. The other one is just some dude who came in off the street wearing the nice guy's face and body. Why wouldn't anyone want to believe that? We always ask ourselves, "Why does she stay?" but better we look at the womxn who left and ask, "How on earth did she manage to get out?" Let Kelly Sundberg tell you why in her well-written "Goodbye."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I'm sorry, but I just didn't enjoy this book. I really wanted to. I thought I would. But I didn't. The opening is compelling and pulled me right in. However, as I read, the details really got blurry. I found it very difficult to follow Sundberg as she detailed the various relationships that led her into a violent marriage. There was too much jumping around–– while discussing one boyfriend and the relationship, there would be a sudden jump to another. For me, this dulled the impact of the message I'm sorry, but I just didn't enjoy this book. I really wanted to. I thought I would. But I didn't. The opening is compelling and pulled me right in. However, as I read, the details really got blurry. I found it very difficult to follow Sundberg as she detailed the various relationships that led her into a violent marriage. There was too much jumping around–– while discussing one boyfriend and the relationship, there would be a sudden jump to another. For me, this dulled the impact of the message she set out to share. While I agree that there is a lot of honesty and courage in this story, there's too much blurring of those details to make the story hold together. While telling the reader that her mother was emotional distant, and at times calling her a bad mother, she also details all the times her mother came to help her or was there for her. I just didn't follow the logic. Admittedly, I gave up at 42% read. Not fair perhaps, but I RARELY give up on a movie or book. I always figure there is something to finish. This just didn't hook me and hold me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    As most memoirs go, Goodbye Sweet Girl can be tough to read at times. Kelly Sundberg details her life, the beginning of her relationship, and their eventual descent into domestic abuse. The insight into why people choose to stay with their abusers and how they gather the courage to leave was raw and unfiltered. This was a real, honest take on domestic abuse. It was excellently written, yet I felt like the author was holding back a bit. It was methodical and somewhat clinical feeling, leaving me As most memoirs go, Goodbye Sweet Girl can be tough to read at times. Kelly Sundberg details her life, the beginning of her relationship, and their eventual descent into domestic abuse. The insight into why people choose to stay with their abusers and how they gather the courage to leave was raw and unfiltered. This was a real, honest take on domestic abuse. It was excellently written, yet I felt like the author was holding back a bit. It was methodical and somewhat clinical feeling, leaving me wanting more emotion. Reliving those events could not have been easy for her, kudos to the author for opening up and sharing her story with us. Doing so will help others that are stuck in the same situation and brings awareness to a subject most avoid.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Senteney

    I am not giving this book 5 stars because of the writing. The writing style is simple but surprisingly open and candid. I gave this book 5 stars because of the courage it takes to open ones whole life up to be viewed, criticized and picked part by the hungry for blood masses. To bare ones soul and admit to the shame of abuse and lay it out there before the world to step on like a rug after being walked on in life takes a special soul.It takes a survivor who wants to reach out and shake others ou I am not giving this book 5 stars because of the writing. The writing style is simple but surprisingly open and candid. I gave this book 5 stars because of the courage it takes to open ones whole life up to be viewed, criticized and picked part by the hungry for blood masses. To bare ones soul and admit to the shame of abuse and lay it out there before the world to step on like a rug after being walked on in life takes a special soul.It takes a survivor who wants to reach out and shake others out of there belittled state of mind and say: Wake Up, you are important and don't deserve to be a whipping girl to boost some cowards ego. I didn't realize when I picked it up that it was the author's own tale, it hit me somewhere in chapter 3, something clicked, Hey isn't that the author's name? I loved the first chapter, and after that it slowly pulled me into her life. I was proud of her for taking a stand. It shows both the good and the bad of her relationships with her husband and his family, and her own extended family. Remember looks are deceiving. We never know the truth behind closed doors.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Long

    This is a very honest and open account of being in an abusive marriage. It's also a story of hope, strength, and survival.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Abuse Brutality Ignorance Anger Violence Scared Crying Pain Hurt Focus Truth No quitting Never give up Survival Strength Courage Bravery Breaking free Freedom Be prepared to be sucked into the vortex that incorporate all these words letters, ultimately feelings and emotions. Necessary truth work layered out in a very real everyday human stain upon earth. A writer with courage and bravery to lay down her life for the reader, a writer yet again seeking truth, realisation, safety, and freedom, from pen and words. The r Abuse Brutality Ignorance Anger Violence Scared Crying Pain Hurt Focus Truth No quitting Never give up Survival Strength Courage Bravery Breaking free Freedom Be prepared to be sucked into the vortex that incorporate all these words letters, ultimately feelings and emotions. Necessary truth work layered out in a very real everyday human stain upon earth. A writer with courage and bravery to lay down her life for the reader, a writer yet again seeking truth, realisation, safety, and freedom, from pen and words. The reader will have empathy learning of her being put in a place of being unwanted and lack of acceptance and love in those important early years as a child, she mentions, “I was bad,” but the terror that was to come in the form of a husband and loved one surpassed them, no more in sickness and health vows to uphold, lines crossed, she had to get out and never return for her child’s safety and herself. First rule of writing, write about what you know, and what she has to tell unsettling but empowering. The stuff of great writing, every clear, terrible, and empowering word of it. Excerpts @ https://more2read.com/review/goodbye-sweet-girl-by-kelly-sundberg/

  9. 4 out of 5

    Neelam Babul

    It is commendable to write about brutality and suffering that one has endured in life at the hands of a loved one with such strength,honesty, generosity and admiration. In this gripping memoir, Kelly Sundberg talks of her about marriage and domestic violence that she experienced. I was appalled and horrified to read of her struggles, the fear she felt and the endless times she fought to save her failing marriage. Kelly Sundberg was married to an erratic and abusive man. Both are writers and whil It is commendable to write about brutality and suffering that one has endured in life at the hands of a loved one with such strength,honesty, generosity and admiration. In this gripping memoir, Kelly Sundberg talks of her about marriage and domestic violence that she experienced. I was appalled and horrified to read of her struggles, the fear she felt and the endless times she fought to save her failing marriage. Kelly Sundberg was married to an erratic and abusive man. Both are writers and while Kelly succeeds as a writer, Caleb is struggling to make it big as a writer. As Kelly welcomes success in her career, Caleb succumbs to envy and jealousy against his wife, which only fuels his anger and provides an excuse for unleashing his rage and frustration on her body. Kelly tried everything to please him, but nothing worked. Caleb chose to abuse Kelly, over and over again often blaming his behavior on Kelly. It was an endless cycle revolving around rage, abuse, and remorse, apology and quiescence. It is only when Kelly realizes that her son is grown and knows what is going on that she decides to stand up for herself and fight for her rights. I can never imagine where batterers get the ability to inflict such pain on their spouses whom they claim to love. And often they blame their behavior on the victims themselves. The courage with which Kelly transformed her life and moved away from a life of harassment and pain to one of safety is truly touching. One of the greatest memoirs I have read this year.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    Kelly Sundberg had no idea her husband had two sides. One a sweet, loving supportive father to their son Reed the other a vengeful violent explosive persona. Her childhood was riddled with some interesting characters and power plays in Salmon Idaho. Salmon was well known for mormon's , hippies, but not as well known was the darker side of beauty and brutality. Break out of the cage. Spread your wings and fly. Never settle. Stay safe. Her mother would often yell at her brother Glenn but it was much Kelly Sundberg had no idea her husband had two sides. One a sweet, loving supportive father to their son Reed the other a vengeful violent explosive persona. Her childhood was riddled with some interesting characters and power plays in Salmon Idaho. Salmon was well known for mormon's , hippies, but not as well known was the darker side of beauty and brutality. Break out of the cage. Spread your wings and fly. Never settle. Stay safe. Her mother would often yell at her brother Glenn but it was much different in terms of how she yelled at Kelly. "She's got that red headed temper." Was often how her family described Kelly. Dan was just a kid when they first met and paths crossed yet he took away something from her. Her peace, her innocence, her ability to be a safe young lady. Dan once showed her his private parts and then proceeded to ask her to do the same. Sadly, over the years she found herself in the company of all the wrong men. Alcoholics, Violent personas, men who promised to love but only offered hate. She had met Caleb at a local bar while playing in his band 'Last Man Standing'. She was 27 he was 35 yet he too offered much the same in terms of infidelity, womanizing, cheating, abuse, and soon she found herself divorced. Will she be able to break this cycle? Will she uncover her truth worth and value? Will she spread her wings and fly? A truly great read for 2018!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    This is an eloquently written memoir about one woman's experience with domestic violence. I'm trying to figure out how to relate this in a way that doesn't make it seem like I'm minimizing Sundberg's experiences, but -- one of the things that made this book powerful for me was that what Sundberg experienced is, in its own way, horrifically banal. This isn't a true crime book. It's not sensational. Evoking the patterns of a violent relationship itself, Sundberg gives us brief moments of terror an This is an eloquently written memoir about one woman's experience with domestic violence. I'm trying to figure out how to relate this in a way that doesn't make it seem like I'm minimizing Sundberg's experiences, but -- one of the things that made this book powerful for me was that what Sundberg experienced is, in its own way, horrifically banal. This isn't a true crime book. It's not sensational. Evoking the patterns of a violent relationship itself, Sundberg gives us brief moments of terror and violence, and then goes back to daily life, filling in the details of everything else that was going on at the time. She helps the reader understand how people who are abused can keep thinking that maybe things will get better. I am so impressed with this book, and with Sundberg's bravery and clarity. But what made me cheer with tears in my eyes was at the end, when she writes: "I am not stronger. I am not stronger because of what he did to me. But I am stronger. And I was strong before I met him. And I was strong during the abuse." She goes on to describe that strength. There is so often the narrative that people who are abused and don't leave are "weak," and god bless Sundberg for countering that unequivocally.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    GOODBYE, SWEET GIRL is a vivid, beautifully composed memoir about Kelly Sundberg’s tumultuous marriage to an abusive man. The narrative evokes feelings of remorse, uncertainty, and later, empowerment. It’s a compelling read, and although the disjointed timeline proves difficult to follow at times, I finished this book with a full heart.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I wanted my compassion to be enough to spare him any more pain. I was a woman full of wants who wanted to love someone in a way that would heal us both. This is a really important book, and I so admire Kelly Sundberg. This isn't some book about a waif-like woman who apologizes for everything, the perfect, blameless victim. Sundberg fights back. Please don't read that and think Sundberg is not a victim. She is. It took her years to even consider that her relationship was anything but a little tumul I wanted my compassion to be enough to spare him any more pain. I was a woman full of wants who wanted to love someone in a way that would heal us both. This is a really important book, and I so admire Kelly Sundberg. This isn't some book about a waif-like woman who apologizes for everything, the perfect, blameless victim. Sundberg fights back. Please don't read that and think Sundberg is not a victim. She is. It took her years to even consider that her relationship was anything but a little tumultuous, and then years to leave her husband. What I mean to say is this: Sundberg explores the grey areas, something many authors do not dare to do. She is a victim, but she knows she's not blameless. That's what makes this book so interesting. Silence and screaming were the only things my family did well. This story has several layers. It claims to mostly dissect domestic violence, but it also covers dysfunctional family dynamics and the ghosts that hang over every person's shoulders. At first, I'll admit that I wasn't a huge fan of the constant switching. Everything is always changing, especially time and central focus. I found it jarring at times, but maybe that's the point. It's not going to be an easy read because it wasn't an easy life. I think my main problem with this is the prose. One of the first things I noticed was the awkward phrasing. There are parts that happen too quickly or too slowly, and there are some parts that could be SO powerful—but aren't as strong as they could be because of some sort of phrasing issue. Take this: I started carrying my stories beneath my rib cage in a physical manifestation that was somewhat like grief—a constant fluttering hummingbird's heart. Some may not see any issue with this, but for whatever reason, I did. It made me pause, and something about it felt... off. And the prose could be a little clumsy: He seemed kind. I said nothing about Caleb. I let the man walk me home. I let him into my apartment. I put on some music. He said, "You have good taste in music." Again, it's not anything major. It just seemed so odd to me. I don't know. Maybe I'm being too picky. Regardless of my possible—probable?—nitpicking, Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival is one of those books that deserves a place on your bookshelf. It's not perfect, but neither are we. **I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to Harper Collins and Goodreads.**

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brooke (Brooke's Books and Brews)

    I find it very difficult to review memoirs. These are stories of peoples’ lives, their experiences and memories laid bare. That’s why I have thought for a while what to write about this book. Kelly Sundberg lays bare the story of her life, all of the ups and downs, the positives and the many negatives. The honesty actually really surprised me. And I absolutely applaud her for being brave enough to do this. Sundberg’s memoir has very difficult subject matter and most of the time it’s not even dis I find it very difficult to review memoirs. These are stories of peoples’ lives, their experiences and memories laid bare. That’s why I have thought for a while what to write about this book. Kelly Sundberg lays bare the story of her life, all of the ups and downs, the positives and the many negatives. The honesty actually really surprised me. And I absolutely applaud her for being brave enough to do this. Sundberg’s memoir has very difficult subject matter and most of the time it’s not even discussed at all: domestic violence. Sundberg’s husband was abusive and she stayed married to him for many years. She addresses the question that everyone has asked when they hear a woman stayed in an abusive marriage: why wouldn’t she just leave? This memoir describes the thoughts that went through Sundberg’s mind, all of the emotions she was confronted with, and how she eventually was able to get herself out of a dangerous marriage. Overall, this memoir kept me glued to the pages because Sundberg’s prose flows beautifully and smoothly even though the story is so heartbreaking. I would recommend this anyone who enjoys memoirs but I would warn readers of the sensitive subject matter. Read the synopsis before you decide to immerse yourself in this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marika

    Author Sundberg writes chillingly about being married to a violent, yet brilliant man and how she came to be with him. What is unusual is that she did not come from a dysfunctional and/or abusive family, which is the backdrop to so many of these stories of abuse. She writes clearly about how she was able to love her husband, and even protect him, as he abused her. Beautifully, yet compactly written by a woman who had had enough. I read an advance copy and was not compensated.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I really appreciate Kelly Sundberg for having the courage to share her story. Maybe others who find themselves in this type of situation or in the beginning or one will find the strength to get out. I am fortunate that I am in a loving marriage. Although, my sister has not been as luckily. She has been in several abusive relationships. One of the relationships she was warned in the beginning. The other ones, the guys put on a good front before their true colors were revealed. I saw Kelly grow st I really appreciate Kelly Sundberg for having the courage to share her story. Maybe others who find themselves in this type of situation or in the beginning or one will find the strength to get out. I am fortunate that I am in a loving marriage. Although, my sister has not been as luckily. She has been in several abusive relationships. One of the relationships she was warned in the beginning. The other ones, the guys put on a good front before their true colors were revealed. I saw Kelly grow stronger the more I read. I am glad that she had others surrounding here to help support her. Kelly writes a real memoir type book. I felt for Kelly and experienced the emotions with her as she went from thinking she had found a great guy to emotional abuse to standing as a fighter. Readers who like reading nonfiction books or who can relate or know someone will want to check this book out. Kelly may be saying "Goodbye, sweet Girl" but I say "Hello, Sunshine".

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This book was very disturbing not only because of the abuse but also because of the author’s perception of the relationship. It seems that the author believed that outside of the abuse that there was a beautiful relationship/friendship between her and Caleb. There didn’t seem to be any evidence of that as she described their relationship. Caleb had so many disturbing behaviors and I had the sense that there was even more darkness not revealed because it was just unspeakable. Given these behavior This book was very disturbing not only because of the abuse but also because of the author’s perception of the relationship. It seems that the author believed that outside of the abuse that there was a beautiful relationship/friendship between her and Caleb. There didn’t seem to be any evidence of that as she described their relationship. Caleb had so many disturbing behaviors and I had the sense that there was even more darkness not revealed because it was just unspeakable. Given these behaviors I was astonished by the author’s delusion that Caleb was a great father and would never harm their child. It is stunning to me that she could allow her child to spend 6 weeks unchaperoned with Caleb every year. She seems to have an amazing ability to compartmentalize his behaviors rather than just see Caleb for who he actually is. I worry that her son will be exposed to much darkness and perhaps she should have not just given up at the divorce hearing and given Caleb everything he wanted.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Thank you to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advance e-galley in exchange for an honest review. It's basically impossible to give a book under 5 stars when someone does what Kelly Sundberg does in this book- is able to write eloquently about the most brutal of experiences, is honest and vulnerable about what they experienced. Her abuse was horrific, and she writes openly about her path to realizing that the situation was untenable, about the support she received and the support she didn't. P Thank you to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advance e-galley in exchange for an honest review. It's basically impossible to give a book under 5 stars when someone does what Kelly Sundberg does in this book- is able to write eloquently about the most brutal of experiences, is honest and vulnerable about what they experienced. Her abuse was horrific, and she writes openly about her path to realizing that the situation was untenable, about the support she received and the support she didn't. Powerful, intense, and important.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Renée Roehl

    1.5 stars. I *wish* this book had been better. It wasn't emotionally honest, it withheld emotion and didn't let the reader in. As a reader I felt nothing, but was told everything too many times in the superfluous details. I found the story redundant with excessive word fluff to pad the lack of genuine pain the author must have felt. She talks about secrets in her family, Caleb's family but doesn't seem to realize as the writer she kept secrets from us. None of the other characters besides the aut 1.5 stars. I *wish* this book had been better. It wasn't emotionally honest, it withheld emotion and didn't let the reader in. As a reader I felt nothing, but was told everything too many times in the superfluous details. I found the story redundant with excessive word fluff to pad the lack of genuine pain the author must have felt. She talks about secrets in her family, Caleb's family but doesn't seem to realize as the writer she kept secrets from us. None of the other characters besides the author and Caleb are fleshed out well enough to care about them. No actual suspense or tension was created, just impatience to get to the point. The protagonist kept saying over and over and over how she needed to leave and...I still didn't *feel* the difficulty, though I know it well in my own life. The author did a decent job explaining the back and forth one has of loving a personality-disordered person with a split who really does love you yet then blames the ills of their life on you. You know their heart is good...somewhere, but the price you pay to try to find it is costly. I did enjoy the nonlinear narrative but her transitions were often a bit too choppy. She also had two or three chapters I enjoyed that were list-like. One chapter was called: "What I didn't Write." In another chapter there was a section entitled: "An Incomplete List of What We Tried." "Playlist for a Broken Heart" was interesting, too. If you'd like to read a well written full energy book on domestic violence, I highly recommend Alice Anderson's Some Bright Morning, I'll Fly Away: A Memoir. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Taila Williams

    Finished in two days! Absolutely captivating book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michele Maro

    I don’t like this author at all. I don’t like her writing style. She repeats phrases too much. She’s whiny. She’s annoying. I was in an abusive marriage also which was why I picked up this book. I didn’t need to hear about her breasts or sex life. Her whinging was just too much. She has serious issues that meds and counseling didn’t help. Maybe someone that reads this will recognize they are being abused and get help.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

    I’ve already passed on my copy to be passed on again, and I’ll eventually keep another on my shelf, but it will be difficult. I have seen how many eloquent reviews have been written for this book, and you should read those because they’re true. This book will be oft-recommended alongside Roxane Gay’s Hunger as a book that changed how I see the world every day—Gay’s for how I see chairs, tables, food. Sundberg’s for how I see stories of abuse and the reactions (or lack of reaction) that follow. A I’ve already passed on my copy to be passed on again, and I’ll eventually keep another on my shelf, but it will be difficult. I have seen how many eloquent reviews have been written for this book, and you should read those because they’re true. This book will be oft-recommended alongside Roxane Gay’s Hunger as a book that changed how I see the world every day—Gay’s for how I see chairs, tables, food. Sundberg’s for how I see stories of abuse and the reactions (or lack of reaction) that follow. As an English professor at a community college, I’m already scheming ways to get this book and other stories into my students’ hands. They need these stories. Thank you for writing, Kelly.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I received an advanced proof of this book as part of a giveaway on behalf of Goodreads and I am so, so grateful that I was able to read this. Roxane Gay's review really nails it- this book is gripping and honest and so, so powerful. Sundberg writes from a place of understanding, for both herself and others, when she could easily write with anger and fury. Her clear, candid prose shows how difficult it is for abused partners to leave relationships and how violence becomes normalized (and almost e I received an advanced proof of this book as part of a giveaway on behalf of Goodreads and I am so, so grateful that I was able to read this. Roxane Gay's review really nails it- this book is gripping and honest and so, so powerful. Sundberg writes from a place of understanding, for both herself and others, when she could easily write with anger and fury. Her clear, candid prose shows how difficult it is for abused partners to leave relationships and how violence becomes normalized (and almost expected) towards women. This book left me reeling and aching but also feeling somehow more complete This book hit me all the harder as, just a day after finishing it, I've had to cope with my ailing grandmother (a victim of relationship abuse) and learned that one of my closest friends is himself a victim of familial abuse. These stories affect too many of us and, as difficult as they are to tell, they give voice to those who have too long been silent and reveal the ways in which systemic patriarchal violence is perpetuated and embedded around us. Sunderberg does this with poise and also leaves us with a great deal of hope, and I cannot recommend this book enough.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I was so thrilled to snag an ARC of this book. I've been dying to read this book since I read Sundberg's gorgeous essay "It Will Look Like a Sunset," and this book didn't disappoint. Gorgeous, finely carved prose (each word feels deliberate), and unputdownable. Although this is a book about domestic violence, the abuse itself doesn't actually take up much space on the page. The book is about so much more than that. (But boy do I hope they edit the back cover copy--I really don't like idea that s I was so thrilled to snag an ARC of this book. I've been dying to read this book since I read Sundberg's gorgeous essay "It Will Look Like a Sunset," and this book didn't disappoint. Gorgeous, finely carved prose (each word feels deliberate), and unputdownable. Although this is a book about domestic violence, the abuse itself doesn't actually take up much space on the page. The book is about so much more than that. (But boy do I hope they edit the back cover copy--I really don't like idea that she "begins to accept responsibility for herself." NO. None of it is her fault.)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Goodbye Sweet Girl by Kelly Sundberg book has a very deep message behind the story dealing with hard topics that society doesn’t want to talk about. A young woman gets herself into a very abusive relationship and feels as if she shouldn’t leave. She came from a very lonely and uncared for childhood. All throughout her life she felt as if she didn’t have anyone to support and love her in the way she needed. Being grown up and looking for a partner to spend the rest of her life with she falls hard Goodbye Sweet Girl by Kelly Sundberg book has a very deep message behind the story dealing with hard topics that society doesn’t want to talk about. A young woman gets herself into a very abusive relationship and feels as if she shouldn’t leave. She came from a very lonely and uncared for childhood. All throughout her life she felt as if she didn’t have anyone to support and love her in the way she needed. Being grown up and looking for a partner to spend the rest of her life with she falls hard for everyone. When Sundberg met Caleb her soon to be husband she thought that everything was finally starting to work out for her. She got herself into a very abusive relationship and stayed in it for longer then she should have. Hearing about her story and how she managed to finally break away even though she was trying to stay loyal. Sundberg does a great job of being very descriptive and allowing for readers to connect even if they have not been a situation in which you were the victim in a domestic violence case. What I enjoyed the most about this book was how she kept having flashbacks into her childhood and teenage years, this slowly allowed the readers to learn more about the author. The way in which she writes the book makes it really easy to follow and understand certain aspects of her relationship and where it all took a turn for the worse. This memoir is such an inspiring story about having the strength to walk away from something even if you love it. This book has actually inspired me to do a research project on domestic violence. I strongly encourage for all females high school age and up to read this book. It encouraged me to learn more about domestic violence and also to have the strength to walk away something that is toxic and no longer holds purpose in your life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Ondrus

    This autobiography on domestic violence would be great for a class or training because it allows one to see the cycle of domestic violence where there are beatings, apologies, makeups, forgiveness... More importantly it shows the struggle of leaving. This novel does a great job of showing the cycle of violence. For example, the author recounts leaving after abuse and then crawling into bed to snuggle by her husband, "relax into the forgiveness" ("forgiveness was so much easier than staying angry. This autobiography on domestic violence would be great for a class or training because it allows one to see the cycle of domestic violence where there are beatings, apologies, makeups, forgiveness... More importantly it shows the struggle of leaving. This novel does a great job of showing the cycle of violence. For example, the author recounts leaving after abuse and then crawling into bed to snuggle by her husband, "relax into the forgiveness" ("forgiveness was so much easier than staying angry. Staying angry meant that I would have had to leave, and I simply wasn't up to that"(156). and to be there for when her son would wake up in the morning. When on a girls trip to Seattle she notes: "I couldn't stop thinking of how much I wished that Caleb was there with me. I also couldn't stop thinking of how much I wished I could leave him. I wondered how it was possible to hold two such completely incongruent thoughts at the same time. More than that, though, I realized that I had grown dependent on Caleb in ways I had never anticipated. There I was, in Seattle, such a beautiful city, and I was unable to enjoy it because I no longer knew how to be by myself"(157). The cycle of building up to leaving is also shown. It is not an easy task: "Years later, Kelly M. would tell me that I would talk for hours about what was going on with Caleb, that I would be determined to leave, but then, at some point in the evening, I would fatigue, soften, and suddenly say, "I just want to be with my husband." She said that I never called him Caleb. I called him "my husband." I was fixated on the idea of marriage as sacred..."(155). She also talks about jealousy as fuel for her husband's beatings. She started to gain success as a writer, getting her pieces accepted for publication. In the first few days her husband was proud and would "brag" about her, but then with "a delay of a day or two...he would find a reason to beat me", so she then stopped submitting her writing for publication, although she consciously did not make the connection between his beatings and her success (191). Moreover, she reached a point of frustration where she "would have given anything up for his happiness, because his unhappiness was breaking me"(191). She recounts how Caleb screamed at her whenever she would cry. Also, "he was always cheerful when other people were around"(148). Also in the cycle of violence she poetically touches on how leaving had been in her mind for years and in her mind while being abused: "I was only ever leaving. I was leaving when he hit me. leaving when he screamed "You are a fucking cunt!" at me. Leaving when he threw the coffee mug at me.....I was leaving, but never gone"(200). Then she lists "An Incomplete List of the Things We Tried" that lists twelve things including visualization, mindfulness, individual counseling for both of them, anger management, medication...(201-206). Chapter 19 is "An Incomplete List of Reasons He Was Violent", including his family, mother, female rejections, ...(221-224). This novel also touches on family support or lack there of. The author's mother emphasized that marriage is hard and that it is hard without a partner. However, the real shocker was how her father did not believe her about the abuse at first. (229). She reflects how she wants to tell her father:"Do You know how hard it is to leave someone you love?"(230). This sentence is the kernel of gold in the autobiography, for people think if one is being abused then it should be at least emotionally easy to leave such a relationship. However, as Sundberg's book shows, relationships are not always black or white. She shows how we humans are like the tide and while we can rage, we can retreat and vow to stay, but frustrations and a desire for peace and a better life can build up finally to move us forward to action. There is not a magical answer to get out of a violent and abusive relationship, nor does Sundberg present one. She does try to reflect on her formation as a person, from her family life to events in her community and personal relationships. She offers that her family was not overly physically affectionate, yet she knew they loved her as reflected by their showing up and showing love through action. She recounts being terrified of a serial rapist loose in her neighborhood while she was a teen. She tells of hiding under a porch while this serial rapist drove by in his pickup truck and later on as a young adult almost being raped. The novel is framed by the husband's final domestic violence, which occurred in a dorm where they were dorm mom and dad. Woman on woman violence is shown through university administration. A female assistant provost told Sundberg how the university had a zero tolerance policy and she wanted her out of her job. Sundberg suggested other work she could do. She saw her scribble $3000 down but then only gave her $1000. She did not ask about her safety or care about her injuries. (232-233). Sundberg reflects on what strength means and finds "I am not stronger because of what he did to me. But I am stronger. And I was strong before I met him. And I was strong during the abuse"(253). She recounts how her strength made her think of what was best for her child and her strength made her ask her husband to get help, and her strength made her realize when things were not going to change (253-254). I love the near to last line of the book where her son says "I'm glad that you left my dad because you are so nice, and I don't know if I ever would have gotten to know your niceness when my dad was around"(258). She ends her book by asking all the women out there who are thinking about leaving to do it, to "jump"(258).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrienne

    This memoir has so much honesty and raw emotion. It’s a difficult topic but the author doesn’t shy away from laying bare the journey that put her in a position where she went from an eager woman who wanted to love and be loved to someone who had to hide bruises. She parts the cover with finesse to report on how abuse can enter a seemingly loving relationship. She pulls apart the facets of what makes a woman, a strong woman and what makes a marriage tip over to allow domestic violence to enter. C This memoir has so much honesty and raw emotion. It’s a difficult topic but the author doesn’t shy away from laying bare the journey that put her in a position where she went from an eager woman who wanted to love and be loved to someone who had to hide bruises. She parts the cover with finesse to report on how abuse can enter a seemingly loving relationship. She pulls apart the facets of what makes a woman, a strong woman and what makes a marriage tip over to allow domestic violence to enter. Courageous and memorable. Access to review copy provided by the publisher.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Like many people, I was introduced to Kelly Sundberg’s work via her widely successful essay, It Will Look Like a Sunset. And like many people, I was absolutely blown away, not just because it’s a brilliant essay, but also in that it helped me understand my mother’s reasons for staying, and how I eventually would, months and months later. It’s worth noting that while Kelly and I are friends (a thing I never thought would happen—side note: she’s a wonderful and sweet human being), I did my best to Like many people, I was introduced to Kelly Sundberg’s work via her widely successful essay, It Will Look Like a Sunset. And like many people, I was absolutely blown away, not just because it’s a brilliant essay, but also in that it helped me understand my mother’s reasons for staying, and how I eventually would, months and months later. It’s worth noting that while Kelly and I are friends (a thing I never thought would happen—side note: she’s a wonderful and sweet human being), I did my best to remain unbiased and concise in my reading of Goodbye, Sweet Girl. What I mean is: I’ve a lot to say, so I’ve delineated it in sections. There's also some spoilers. WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT Let me start by saying this: A lot of people have categorized this as a “why she stayed” kind of memoir. Sure, but I’d implore those people and future readers to look past that. Goodbye, Sweet Girl is as much about “why she stayed” as it is about rural poverty, about marriage, about illness, about motherhood, about love, about the kind of misogyny that kills women. Sundberg takes us through Mormon Idaho, across Oregon and West Virginia, all while detailing her experiences with men growing up, sexual violence, kidnapping, demolition derbies, her relationships with men, her mother, and the like. She’s smart, too: Sundberg doesn’t sugarcoat* the violence near the end of the memoir, but rather, she knows when to pull away, when to zoom back in, when to let the reader sit with something, and when to briefly mention it and move on. Her use of brevity as a tool only strengthens the narrative here; a casual mention of being afraid to drive because Caleb did it so much (a common tactic of isolation in abusive relationships), being spit on during a beating, the belief that she would not be able to go on without Caleb. She writes these things in a way that is not only indicative of how normal the abuse has become for the Kelly at the time, but also in a way that shows us how abuse happens “so slowly, then so fast.” The book is tender. The book is so damn tender it hurts. Sundberg writes with an almost ferocious gentleness. It isn’t mere senseless violence. It’s not just the bruises, the brutality. Too often, we only focus on the abuse in an abusive relationship, and not the actual relationship. Sundberg tells us that, yes, there were the dark moments, but more often than not, there were good moments, small moments of light, too: “Even when I was angry, I loved the way that my body fit into his. I loved the way he always held me so freely.” What I mean is: There was love, so much love. CALEB IS GARBAGE, FAM. PERIOD. In case anyone needs clarifying, I am happy to spoil the book: Caleb is a skeezy bag of girthy horseshit. Still, Sundberg doesn’t dehumanize him. She could’ve chosen to paint him as a one-dimensional, violent misogynist (which he is), but instead, she shows us a man debilitated by his own masculinity, his own fear of abandonment, his fear of his mother. We are shown a very sad, very ill man who tries to be a decent father. Sundberg, in my opinion, takes extra care to humanize him, saying at one point, “I knew that in some ways, Caleb might be even more present [for their child] than I was.” Some reviews might say she excuses the abuse. She doesn’t. What we see, however, is a slow shifting from the Kelly Sundberg then, to the Kelly Sundberg now. We are shown, by the end, that she can only take responsibility for herself and her own healing. Sundberg certainly doesn’t claim to speak for anyone else, but by the end, the book comes to feel like a call to the abuse survivor: What I mean is: What happened to us is not our faults. We are only responsible for how we move on. THE ENDING It is common, amongst trauma narratives, to find—and expect, to an extent—a story written in the style of what I call the “I Walked All the Way through Hell and Have the Scars to Prove It” narrative, of which I’m not usually a fan. The issue I have with that type of narrative is that, so often, the ending of said narrative feels redemptive. And because it feels redemptive, it usually feels easy. It feels simple; it feels like, “Things got bad for a while but then life got better and now I am Much Stronger for It.” It isn’t messy like life is. Real life is not structured the way books and stories and poems and essays and think pieces and articles are. Real life doesn’t have a structure, and I think a lot of the more negative reviews forget that when reading creative nonfiction. I’ll be honest: The ending is redemptive here. And yet, it doesn’t feel simple. It’s hella complicated. There’s no band-aid and a, “There, all better now” here. The ending feels hard won. It feels like a victory. Maybe a tad bit rushed, but other than that, I’m actually very fine with it. Perhaps that’s because I really am biased. Perhaps it’s because Kelly is my friend. Perhaps I’ve grown frustrated with a world that only listens to women when they throw themselves onto the swords of their grief, even after the abuse has ended. Whatever the reason, we feel Sundberg’s exhaustion. We see the divorce, the court proceedings, the therapy sessions. I won’t spoil everything, but we also feel her joy, her freedom. She shows us, in the end, how you can hold on past letting go, and still let go anyway: “Mom, you are getting so strong,” her son says. Goodbye, Sweet Girl is a fast read, but not an easy one. Sundberg makes you work as a reader. It is the kind of book that invites the reader to listen. It is the kind of book that will make people realize the subtle forms of abuse they’ve endured for years. It will make ask twice about that bruise on a coworker’s arm. It is the kind of book that will not save lives, but change them for the better. Perhaps most importantly, there is a small bit at the end of It Will Look Like a Sunset (I am referring to the essay, though this bit also appears in the memoir) where Sundberg’s mother says, “Listen to me. I have friends who have left their husbands. I have seen it on the other side. It is not better on the other side. Try hard. Try hard before you give up.” Goodbye, Sweet Girl is, in many ways, a response to that. Kelly Sundberg shows us exactly what is on the other side: Spring. *As an aside, I think a lot readers, abuse survivors or not, might pick this up and expect or even want to see a horrific, overly sensationalized account of violence. Whether that’s because we live in a culture that glorifies violence against women, or whether a survivor is wanting to their story reflected, I can’t say, but you won’t find any torture porn here. You just won’t, in my opinion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. This memoir details the author's marriage to a man full of contradictions. Caleb was a loving father and very hands' on around the house. Yet he could also fly into rages and grow violent towards his wife Kelly. In this account, in candid prose, she describes the years' long process of working to fix her marriage, laying blame on herself when the cycle continued, and ultimately her conclusion that she could not save her marria I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. This memoir details the author's marriage to a man full of contradictions. Caleb was a loving father and very hands' on around the house. Yet he could also fly into rages and grow violent towards his wife Kelly. In this account, in candid prose, she describes the years' long process of working to fix her marriage, laying blame on herself when the cycle continued, and ultimately her conclusion that she could not save her marriage in the face of such abuse. In addition to detailing her marriage, Sundberg reflects on her childhood in rural Idaho and her relationship with her parents to try to understand both herself and her violent marriage. It's hard for me to imagine the courage it took to write this story and to share the most vulnerable parts of her past. The author does a remarkable job of presenting a measured and fair depiction of her husband, detailing both his flaws but also his wonderful attributes, when it would have been easy and even justifiable to demonize him for his abuse. In presenting both sides of her husband's personality, Sundberg also provides real insight into the cycle of domestic abuse and why so many women end up staying in abusive relationships for years. The author also does a great job of detailing how her own low self esteem contributed to the continuation of the abuse: "I thought I wasn't the greatest catch myself. Hadn't I been breaking things too? Hadn't I gotten hysterical at a slight disappointment by my best friend? I had never felt more inadequate in my life, less worthy of love" (152). In some ways, Sundberg seems to come down harder on her parents in this memoir than on her abusive husband. She is thoughtful in trying to rationalize Caleb's abuse and tries for years to fix their relationship. Her relationship with her parents is also imperfect; filled with resentment and anger on her part for failings of her parents. Yet despite her parents near constant support to Kelly as an adult, it is remarks from her parents that seem to wound the author the most deeply and are repeated like a refrain in the concluding pages of the book: the line "When my father told me he 'just didn't know what to believe'" (234) is repeated over and over, so that the reader can sense how her fathers' words haunt the author. It can't have been easy for her parents' to see this go to print. Due to the deeply personal nature of this story, I suspect it was a difficult one to write. I commend the author on her candid depiction of her life and what it's like to experience and survive abuse, which has value both to other victims but also for those seeking to understand that experience. But more than just about her abusive relationship, this book was her life story, her journey to becoming a mother and a writer, and an independent person capable of claiming what she wants out of her life and providing a safe and loving home for her son. 3.5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brandi

    This book is about Kelly Sundberg's very specific experience, and it is so much more. Like Kelly, I grew up in a town of around 3,000 people in Idaho, a place where everyone around me displayed that women existed to serve their men, that the highest achievement is (for god's sake!) not rocking the boat, and that the mistakes of men happen only because the women were too [stupid, lazy, ugly, fat, clueless, ignorant, pigheaded - take your pick] to have prevented it from happening. I, too, found my This book is about Kelly Sundberg's very specific experience, and it is so much more. Like Kelly, I grew up in a town of around 3,000 people in Idaho, a place where everyone around me displayed that women existed to serve their men, that the highest achievement is (for god's sake!) not rocking the boat, and that the mistakes of men happen only because the women were too [stupid, lazy, ugly, fat, clueless, ignorant, pigheaded - take your pick] to have prevented it from happening. I, too, found myself in an abusive first marriage, confused about why the rules about relationships I'd learned weren't working. I read this whole book in an afternoon. The experience of turning the pages was, to me, like meeting a new friend who gets you in a way no one else ever has. Some people have posted very short-sighted reviews on Amazon - people who were seemingly looking for some kind of rock 'em, sock 'em narrative, reviews that claim the dives Sundberg takes back into childhood and early adulthood are, in some way, departures from the story at hand. I couldn't disagree more. Kelly tells the story not as someone reacting to a bad situation, or as someone with an axe to grind, but rather as someone who is thoughtful and has done the work to understand all of the contributing factors that can lead someone to stay and stand at the ready for more, and more, and more of something painful. To those reviewers, I say, get your voyeuristic hard-on elsewhere. (Or, you know, don't.) There are many vivid and emotional scenes in Goodbye, Sweet Girl, but the one I can't get out of my mind is one in which Cory, a friend of Sundberg's then-boyfriend, throws an empty can at her feet in her home. When she reminds him it doesn't belong there, and that he should pick it up, he licks his fork and throws it at her feet. "Isn't that your job?" he says. And no one else says or does anything. If I had 300 extra hands and feet, I could not count on them the number of times this kind of bullshit occurred in my experience growing up in the epicenter of patriarchy. It's hard to explain to others who grew up in more balanced areas that these things exist; it is a kind of fiery salve to read it so plainly in these pages. It is a delight to see Sundberg ultimately find footing on the high road (in what appears to be astonishing fairness and compassion) and to find the strength to reject what doesn't serve her and her child. Toward the end, Kelly uses a wolf metaphor, saying that - at one time - she would have run, but that now, she's staring the wolves down. That writing is her way of doing so. She's breaking the cardinal rule of good girls in Idaho by saying, "Hey, this isn't okay, and we need to talk about it," and, for that, I want to say, Finally. Thank you. I am with you, and I hear you. Bravo.

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