Goodbye, Earl

A Bad Girl Creek Novel

Goodbye, Earl

Five challenging years have passed in the lives of the ladies of Bad Girl Creek. Beryl, Nance, Ness, and Phoebe have experienced their share of hardship and heartache but also much love and happiness.
Beryl now lives with Earl in Alaska, where the fissures in their relationship have started to spread. But then Earl disappears one wintry night. Nance, on the heels of a string of devastating miscarriages, has been advised to stop trying for a baby. Phoebe finds herself overwhelmed by her five-year-old daughter, Sally, and an enigmatic Southern charmer named Andrew. And Ness tenderly nurses David Snow as he gradually succumbs to AIDS. The farm's successes have brought profits, but when a nursery opens across the road, the bar is set higher yet again.
Life rolls on, though, and in the midst of myriad misfortunes come explosive surprises. The old friends are challenged to reunite once again, to rediscover with fresh eyes the powerful words in Aunt Sadie's journal: Live life to the fullest. Love as often as you can. Regret nothing. Eat hearty. Laugh often. Plant flowers. And don't forget to dance.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743224642 | 
  • January 2005
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Goodbye, Earl
1) In this story, setting is more than a backdrop. The depiction of Alaska and coastal California, where most of the novel takes place, goes deeper than just creating the mood. These places seem to actively reflect the characters' state of mind and emotional "landscape," so to speak. As such, what significance does Beryl's moving to Alaska have in terms of the larger story? What did Alaska offer her that California did not? What tools does the author use to make the natural landscape such a vibrant part of this novel?
2) How are animals used to the same effect throughout this story? Often, as the lives of these people unfold their relationships with non-human characters reveal much about their personality. Think about Sally with her horse, Thomas Jack with birds, and Beryl with many different kinds of animals. Why is it that animals give us a window into the emotional worlds of these people?
3) Beryl religiously writes in her journal. As such, it is a key in understanding her as a character. At one point, we learn this about her writing: "What she'd written in California wasn't earth shattering, but here in Alaska she was digging down to the bedrock of her life, and it was a stony parcel of land to till." This metaphor not only sheds light on Beryl's relationship with Alaska, but also alludes to the unresolved pain surrounding the rape that she suffered as a teenager. A few pages earlier, that rape, and Beryl' see more

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About the Author

Jo-Ann Mapson
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Jo-Ann Mapson

Jo-Ann Mapson is the author of eight novels. She teaches fiction in the MFA program at the University of Alaska, and lives with her husband and four dogs in Anchorage, Alaska, where she is at work on a new novel. Visit her at