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Born out of Kelly Sundberg’s viral essay in Guernica, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” which was collected in the Best American Essays of 2015, Goodbye, Sweet Girl sheds light on intimate partner violence, which affects one in four women aged 18 and older in the U.S. but is rarely spoken about as honestly as it is in Sundberg’s memoir. In beautiful, poetic writing, Sundberg’s voice shines through on the page as she chronicles how her marriage to Caleb, a funny, warm, supportive man and a wonderful father to their young son, Reed, devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why Sundberg endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke free.
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.
Kelly Sundberg’s essays have appeared in Guernica, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, and others. 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 of the Arts. Maggie Smith is the author of Lamp of the Body, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, and Good Bones, named by the Washington Postas one of the Five Best Poetry Books of 2017. Her poems have appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.