Goodbye, Sweet Girl (Hardcover)
A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival
Harper, 9780062497673, 272pp.
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
“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."--Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Bad Feminist
"In her stunning memoir, Kelly Sundberg examines the heart-breaking bonds of love, detailing her near decade-long marriage’s slide into horrific abuse. Sundberg shares her own confusions, fears and empathy for her violent husband, even as she comes to realize he will never change. This is an immensely courageous story that will break your heart, leave you in tears, and, finally, offer hope and redemption. Brava, Kelly Sundberg."—Rene Denfeld, author of The Child Finder
"A fierce, frightening, soulful reckoning—Goodbye, Sweet Girl is an expertly rendered memoir that investigates why we stay in relationships that hurt us, and how we survive when we leave them. Kelly Sundberg is a force. She has written the rare book that has the power to change lives."—Christa Parravani, author of Her: A Memoir
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.
About the Author
Kelly Sundberg’s essays have appeared in Guernica, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, Denver Quarterly, Slice, and others. Her essay “It Will Look Like a Sunset” was selected for inclusion in The Best American Essays 2015, and other essays have been listed as notables in the same series. She has a PhD in creative nonfiction from Ohio University and has been the recipient of fellowships or grants from Vermont Studio Center, A Room of Her Own Foundation, Dickinson House, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Praise For Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival…
— New York Journal of Books
“Goodbye, Sweet Girl is heartbreaking, breathtaking in its scope, and urgently truthful in its harrowing and tender examination of when empathy fails—and when it wins.”
— The Los Angeles Review
“In this can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-page memoir, hard-bitten Idaho is a savage landscape “full of sawed-off mountains,” nuclear waste, and wild animals just outside your door. But for Sundberg, the real danger shares her bed. How does a violent partner erode the terrain of your heart? And are you ever too old to run away from home?”
— O Magazine, Top Books for Summer
“Kelly Sundberg’s lyrical, devastating 2014 essay about domestic violence, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” made readers hold their collective breath. It’s now expanded into a full-length memoir about Sundberg’s husband, a man who was wonderful and violent at turns.”
— Elle, The 30 Best Books to Read This Summer
“Goodbye Sweet Girl is a beautiful, devastating, and nuanced story of domestic abuse and escape that does true justice to the experiences of the victims without judgment or criticism of their choices.”
“Because of its subject matter, Goodbye, Sweet Girl might seem difficult to read, but Sundberg’s crystalline prose and insightful narration lighten the reading experience…. [her] story is haunting, propulsive and, perhaps for some readers, familiar. Her wrenching memoir deserves to be read by a wide audience so that we can all learn to recognize the signs of domestic abuse.”
— BookPage, rave review
“Mesmerizing and poetic, Goodbye Sweet Girl is a harrowing, cautionary and ultimately redemptive tale that brilliantly illuminates one woman’s transformation.”
“Kelly Sundberg gives one of the most brave and beautifully written accounts of a marriage gone wrong in her memoir, Goodbye, Sweet Girl. Sundberg looks at both the tenderness and the violence of her abusive marriage, while also analyzing why women remain too long in dangerous relationships.”
— Brooklyn Digest
“[Goodbye, Sweet Girl helps us] to better understand each of our nuances and complexities, how any of us rationalizes our decisions, and how we find the courage to take care of ourselves and to speak our truths…. [Sundberg writes] her truth with a deep sense of compassion.”
— The Millions
“Goodbye, Sweet Girl is a story of domestic violence and survival, written by Kelly Sundberg, who experienced abuse at the hands of her husband. A strong and empowering memoir, the layers of Sundberg’s life are utterly inspiring.”
— Women.com, 15 Awesome Books With Strong Female Protagonists
“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.”
— Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Bad Feminist
“Goodbye, Sweet Girl is a breathtaking gut-punch of a memoir. Real talk: the story is hard. We spend so much time pretending that domestic violence doesn’t exist. We spend so much time doubting women. Enough. Sundberg gives us the truth in all its complexity; fear and hope and fury in gorgeous, near-cinematic prose that made me weep, and cheer, and understand. Here is how we save ourselves. Here is how we survive.”
— Megan Stielstra, author of The Wrong Way to Save Your Life
“In her stunning memoir, Kelly Sundberg examines the heart-breaking bonds of love, detailing her near decade-long marriage’s slide into horrific abuse. Sundberg shares her own confusions, fears and empathy for her violent husband, even as she comes to realize he will never change. This is an immensely courageous story that will break your heart, leave you in tears, and, finally, offer hope and redemption. Brava, Kelly Sundberg.”
— Rene Denfeld, author of The Child Finder
“A fierce, frightening, soulful reckoning-- Goodbye, Sweet Girl is an expertly rendered memoir that investigates why we stay in relationships that hurt us, and how we survive when we leave them. Kelly Sundberg is a force. She has written the rare book that has the power to change lives.”
— Christa Parravani, author of Her: A Memoir
“With disorienting elegance Kelly Sundberg shows her readers how difficult it can be to believe even your own experiences of abuse when they begin in what seems to be a loving relationship, and unfold alongside depression and confusion arising as a result of that very abuse—and perhaps worst of all, when in the midst of such doubt, fear and sorrow, loved ones question your judgment. Kelly brings clear eyes, an open heart and the vulnerability that comes from long healing to a story of domestic grief and horrific abuse. The abuse that she long told herself, and others, was not really that bad. The writing and juxtaposition of scenes are striking and terrible in their beauty—it’s no coincidence that her story begins among men and women who both depend utterly on the mountains and forests of Idaho, and who seem hell-bent on destroying them. It is a powerful spirit indeed who not only navigated so many lonely and terrible days and nights, but who also escaped with grace, a beloved child, and the determination to share her story, difficult as that must have been. This is an important book.”
— Bonnie Nadzam, author Lamb and Lions
“A shattering of the silence that enables domestic violence to continue, Goodbye, Sweet Girl shines a fierce light on how complex and sometimes joyous a relationship that’s also an abusive cage can be, why women gradually lose the orientation they need to find the exit, and how they escape when they do, or how this one did. This book is a testament—and a warning to batterers that the silence is broken, and their secrets are leaking out.”
— Rebecca Solnit
“Reading Kelly Sundberg’s writing—fresh, luminous, spirited—is a pleasure second only to witnessing her decision to survive. Goodbye Sweet Girl is a meditation on what it takes to save your own life.”
— Ariel Levy
“In this powerful debut memoir, Sundberg delivers a harrowing account of an abusive marriage and how she left it....Sundberg cogently ties together the painful chain of events in her life and the personal growth that resulted from it.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Lyrical and taut, Goodbye, Sweet Girl provides readers with an honest and critical account of partner violence.”
— Booklist (starred review)