Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter's Memoir of Love after Loss (Paperback)
Lisa reconsiders the affluent upbringing he financed (filled with horses, lavish vacations, bulging closets), and the emotional distance that grew when he retired to Las Vegas and she remained in New Jersey where she and her husband earn moderate incomes. She also confronts death rituals, navigates new family dynamics, while living both in memory and the unfolding moment.
In this brutally honest yet compelling portrayal and tribute, Lisa searches for meaning, reconciling the Italian-American father—self-made textile manufacturer who liked newspapers, smoking, Las Vegas craps tables, and solitude—with the complex man she discovers influenced everything, from career choice to spouse.
By forging a new father-daughter “relationship,” grief is transformed to hopeful life-affirming redemption. In poignant, often lyrical prose, this powerful, honest book proves that when we dare to love the parent who challenged us most, it’s never too late.
About the Author
"Romeo’s honest, hopeful story will strike a meaningful chord with those who’ve been prompted to reconsider their relationships or themselves after a death." —Publishers Weekly
This memoir spans but a few years in Ms. Romeo's late forties, though of course looks back. Her elderly father, living comfortably in Las Vegas with her mother, falls ill. He develops disabling arthritis, Alzheimer's, and then has a stroke. Getting old, as has been said, is not for the faint of heart… Grief, as the author tells us, is not about forgetting. It is about remembering. The treatment for grief, particularly persistent or unresolved grief, is conjuring up memories, unearthing the past, with its kaleidoscope of emotions. Only then can the heartache be mitigated, a lost and pained relationship be mended, a life propelled forward.
That is where this memoir ends. Not quite "all's well that ends well." The author knows life too well for that. But her grief and her father's visits (which fade and then maybe vanish for her) are mutative. She has changed in ways that heighten her attachments and her kindness to others and herself. As her father used to say, "you did good, kid." —New York Journal of Books
“…this book shatters grief myths to expose bereavement experiences that often go unacknowledged within American life… Romeo’s ruminations amplify the emotional complexities of early mourning, when there is no rulebook or how-to manual for how to get this right, despite American culture’s insistence on five tidy consecutive stages of grief…In American culture, where talk of death is still taboo, we need more stories about the aftermath of loss, about what it means to live with candor in the face of grief. We need stories that speak with frankness about parental death. We need writers like Romeo to start a new conversation, to keep it going.” —Brevity
"Romeo’s reflections on death and complicated parental relationships gesture towards a larger understanding with which any human can empathize." —Hippocampus Magazine
"Lisa Romeo has constructed a provocative look at the grieving process, unstinting in self-examination, authentic in its exploration of complex family relationships, and, at its most basic level, a tender eulogy about the father she has lost." —Literary Mama
"She opens up her heart to her father, her family, the reader and herself. She writes that the act of creating this memoir was, in part, to know her father better. In doing so, it’s clear to readers that she has also come to know herself better. And this is a story any of us having experienced loss can take comfort in." —Halfway Down the Stairs
"Starting with Goodbye produces the fading image of a whole generation of Italian American old timers, loaf of Italian bread in hand, skillfully playing on the reader’s heart strings." —Ovunque Siamo
“Lisa Romeo’s compelling memoir is both a loving tribute to her adored father and a clear-eyed portrait of their complicated relationship. Reading it, you can’t help but reflect on your own familial bonds—but you may also find, as I did, that Lisa’s lovely writing and startling insights lead you into deeper territory, as she wrestles with questions of identity, mortality, and the vagaries of love.” —Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World
“This is a brave and vulnerable book, like The Year of Magical Thinking. The energy of this book is leaping off the page with internal struggle. The writing moved me—gorgeous sentences. I felt the narrator’s presence so strongly and felt so connected to what she was going through, and what she had lost. It so beautifully reflects the ‘stuckness’ of grief, with a lack of sentimentality that is powerful.” —Laraine Herring, author of Lost Fathers
“This book is a treasure. Lisa Romeo’s writing is an enormous comfort, reminding us that our relationships with loved ones never truly end, even in death.” —Allison Gilbert, author of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive; Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents; and Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children
"Starting with Goodbye lives in the realm of the imagination where love continues beyond grief, where the living and the dead meet and sometimes know each other more deeply than life's demands and circumstances allowed. Lisa Romeo is a writer with exquisite restraint and precision, recounting a compelling, spiritually adventurous tale. A beautiful, honest, sometimes troubling, and triumphant book.” —Richard Hoffman, author of Half the House and Love & Fury
"In Starting with Goodbye, Lisa Romeo wanders through the territory of grief, its borders blurred and variable, an unexpected land with room to connect with and understand her deceased dad in a deeply profound way. Written with careful and unwavering self-reflection, unraveling memories and inviting readers to glimpse the particular tenderness and complexity of their relationship. Her story inspires hope that love and reconciliation can bridge the space between life and death." —Melanie Brooks, author of Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma
"Driven by curiosity, written with great tenderness, and executed with quiet mastery, Starting with Goodbye is a daughter’s love letter to her father. It is also a welcome reminder that our most intimate relationships don’t end with death but are transformed over time if our hearts are open, our spirits are attuned to mystery, and we are willing to carry on a different kind of conversation.” —Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment and The Gift of an Ordinary Day
"Rich, intelligent, thoughtful, personal and investigative. What stands out is the voice, continuing to probe and wonder, open still to discovering what might be true about this interesting life. Just the kind of character we like to follow around. Intensely emotional without being maudlin." —Barbara Hurd,author of Tidal Rhythms and Listening to the Savage
"Lisa Romeo's writing is beautifully poetic. Her story is one that all daughters of difficult fathers will want to read." —Sue Kushner Resnick, author of You Saved Me Too, and Goodbye Wifes and Daughters
“In precise prose and beautifully rendered detail, Romeo explores her life in the sandwich generation. With increasing depth and insight she develops the relationship she wished she had when he was alive. ‘Grief is how we work out what was wrong in the pre-death relationship,’ she says toward the end of the book. We’ve been with her on the journey that took her to each discovery.
Our connections with those we love don’t always end with death. Any woman who has ever lost a father, any child who has ever lost a parent, anyone with a hole in her life that she keeps grieving should read this book. Romeo’s narrative and analysis illuminate some tough issues and her ideas will spark insights into your own relationships.” —B. Lynn Goodwin, Story Circle Book Reviews