I finally finished Kelly Sundberg’s memoir, Goodbye Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Abuse and Survival, this morning. I’d been wanting to delve in for a while now, and had started her book at least a couple of months ago, I think, but I read the bulk of it in the last week and a half.
Kelly and I are Facebook friends, but we have not met in person. I am wary of that, usually—being Facebook friends with someone you don’t know—(even though I asked her, which I would normally not do). I was moved by some shorter creative nonfiction essays of hers I read online, and we share many writer friends in common. Now, we are slated to be on the same panel at a writing conference (I invited her). That—as a little background.
About her book: I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve read a full-length memoir. I recently read a couple of books of essays and a novel, and in general have been reading essay collections or individual essays online. I enjoyed the longer, sustained narrative and the chance to get to know the narrator in that context and structure. Sundberg’s voice is conversational, intimate, open—I felt as though a friend—maybe not my best friend, but a good friend—was telling me the most important story of her life. As a reader, it was a privilege to be in that position—to be trusted in that way.
Certainly, parts of Goodbye, Sweet Girl were difficult to read: the scenes in which there is violence and the narrator despairs, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sundberg shows what it is like to be in the situation of making so little money as an adjunct professor and the reality of the challenge / impossibility of raising a child without a second income. So many women are unable to leave abusive situations, because of these economic circumstances. And these circumstances are far, far too common.
She describes and takes the reader through her situation—how she came to be with her ex-husband, how some of the times were good, and what happened when his rages turned violent and the violence escalated. Sundberg also describes growing up in a small town in Idaho, a place I’ve never been, and I appreciated the details of the setting. The book also takes place in West Virginia—another area of the country I don’t know. Reading Sundberg’s book allowed me the opportunity to experience those places vicariously, and to learn about them.
I do recommend this book—with the caveat that I imagine it could be potentially triggering depending on the reader’s personal experiences. However, what came through for me was Sundberg’s determination, spirit of survival, ability to go forward and to create a new life for herself and her son. And that made it a positive book—learning how someone else who found herself in a bad situation made it through.
4 comments on “Week 3: Goodbye, Sweet Girl”
Another book I have to read! There’s a great interview with Kelly Sundberg in Guernica: https://www.guernicamag.com/kelly-sundberg-the-most-painful-things-anyones-ever-said-to-you/ that put her on my radar, especially for the incredibly moving words she has to say about forgiveness:
“I believe in forgiveness but I don’t believe in what so many people conceptualize as forgiveness. I don’t think forgiving someone for something means that we have to forget what they’ve done or make allowances. I don’t believe that the only route to healing is through forgiveness. I think that’s a very dangerous notion that if we want to heal from something, we have to forgive first. It puts a lot of pressure on women particularly to make a lot of allowances for the behavior of men.”
This resonated so much with me that I had to write it down in my reading notebook that I usually reserve for excerpts from books. Now I know I have to read her memoir. Thank you, Sejal!
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Nadia, thanks for reading and for linking to the Guernica interview! And for that quote…there’s a lot there to think about.
Also, Nadia–you’re welcome to borrow my copy if you like!
Thanks, Sejal and Nadia, for calling our attention to Kelly Sundberg. I’ll check out that Guernica interview.
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