Josie Clark, a loving wife and mother, struggles to make ends meet by cleaning homes and working at a diner while her husband drives a taxi. Josie’s joy is her two children, just entering adulthood. But with her son recently imprisoned for a crime she is certain he didn’t commit, and her daughter marrying too young, Josie now worries about the future—and wonders if she’ll ever be able to ensure their safety and happiness.
Across town, in a gorgeous house by the sea, successful property developer Bel Monkton lives in comparative luxury. But she has struggles of her own. Since the death of her twin sister more than a year ago, Bel has been unable to rebuild her shattered world, and the troubled past she thought was behind her haunts her ever more.
Faced with uncertainty and heartbreak, Josie and Bel find each other and a surprising friendship that will change their lives.
Praise for Susan Lewis
“A master storyteller.”—Diana Chamberlain
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“So what do you think all that’s about?” Josie Clark murmured, almost to herself, as she put down the phone.
“All what?” her husband wondered from behind his latest copy of Exchange and Mart. It would be a flipping miracle if they could afford a new car, secondhand of course, but there was no harm in looking.
Josie’s lively violet eyes flicked in Jeff’s direction. Though she couldn’t see his face, her own was partially reflected in the mirror hanging over their faux-brick fireplace, and what she could see were small, delicate features, with a pixieish chin and nose that seemed to belong more to a child than a woman of forty-two years. Her crowning glory, as her dad used to say, was the mop of honey-red curls that shone and tumbled about her head as though they had a life all their own.
“That barnet of yours is the envy of half the women I know,” her neighbor Carly regularly complained. Not that Carly’s hair was bad; it just wasn’t naturally blond, and in truth it didn’t have all that much verve in it either. However, on Friday nights when Carly went out with the girls, her artful handling of it ensured that no one would ever have guessed how many extensions, pieces, pins, and lacquer sprays were holding it all up.
At five foot two, Josie could never be described as tall, but then neither could Jeff, at five-five. What he was, though, or certainly in her opinion, was the best-looking bloke in Kesterly-on-Sea. Or on their street, anyway. Probably on the whole estate, because not a single one of the blokes she knew, young or old, looked a bit like Tom Cruise when they smiled, nor could they make her heart skip a beat the way Jeff sometimes did. That was really saying something after twenty-two years of marriage, which didn’t mean they hadn’t had their ups and downs along the way, because heaven knew they had. In fact, there had been a time when she’d seriously feared they wouldn’t make it, but she didn’t allow herself to dwell on that too much now. No point when the other woman, Dawnie Hopkins, had moved up north after it had all come out about her and Jeff. That had happened five years ago this Christmas and had totally spoiled the holiday, that was for sure. In fact, Christmas had never really been the same since, given all the painful memories that seemed to pour down the chimney instead of seasonal cheer.
Last Christmas had been the worst, though not thanks to Dawnie this time—in the circumstances Josie might have actually preferred it if her former best mate had staged an unexpected return. No, the source of their upset last year had been Ryan, their eighteen-year-old son, whose gift for getting into one scrape after another after another had surpassed itself so spectacularly that Jeff would no longer have the boy’s name spoken in his hearing.
Oddly, the crisis of Ryan’s trial and imprisonment had seemed to bring Josie and Jeff closer together for a while, probably because it had given them more to think about than how much damage the shenanigans with Dawnie had done to their marriage.
She still couldn’t help wondering if Jeff ever regretted staying.
She didn’t ask. It wouldn’t do any good, not only because she was nervous about the answer but also because she herself had banned Dawnie’s name from being spoken inside 31 Greenacre Close. This was their home, a tidy little semidetached house at the far end of a cul-de-sac, next to a lane that ran through to the playing fields behind, and they didn’t need to sully its fresh, lemony scent with stinky reminders of a so-called friend’s betrayal. (Josie would never admit this to another living soul, but she actually missed Dawnie more than she’d imagined she would. Though she supposed it wasn’t all that surprising, given they’d been best mates practically since birth.)
Just went to show you could never trust anyone, even those closest to you. It had been a very painful lesson for Josie to learn, as she herself was so loyal she didn’t even like to change a dental appointment.
The real light of her and Jeff’s life was Lily, their twenty-one-year-old angel of a daughter, who was currently at uni doing a BA honors degree in history and politics! Imagine that! No one from either of their families had ever done so well—nor, come to that, had anyone else on their street. However, Lily was special; everyone said so, and had been saying it for most of her blessed little life. She sparkled and laughed and made everyone feel so good about themselves that love just came cascading back at her like a rainstorm of stars.
“She’s her mother all over,” Dawnie always used to say, but Josie didn’t think she’d ever been as lovely as Lily. True, she enjoyed a good laugh, and she wasn’t backward in offering a kind word when one was needed, but she didn’t have the same inner glow or the innate belief in goodness that constantly shone out of her daughter.
Maybe she’d had some of it once, but definitely not anymore.
Now she had scars on her hopes and shadows over her dreams, though to look at her or talk to her, no one would ever know it. She simply went about her days in her usual cheery way, with a duster and polish in her hands on Mondays and Wednesdays, a teapot and frying pan on Thursdays and Fridays, and, until recently, a telephone headset plastered to her ears while she engaged in a spot of telemarketing on the weekends. (Living where they did, on the notorious Temple Fields council estate, there wasn’t much in the way of swearing, cursing, and death threats she hadn’t heard before, but not until she’d taken this last job had she ever been on the receiving end of it. Honest to God, the things some people said when you rang them up out of the blue . . . She’d never repeat their abuse, not even to Jeff, who, it had to be said, had some choice phrases himself for when his taxi broke down. And best not get him started on the kids who vomited in his backseat after a skinful on a Friday night, because that really wasn’t pretty, for anyone.)
The telemarketing had ended up proving a waste of her time, since she’d never made a red cent out of it, so these last couple of weekends she’d been enjoying a bit of time to herself. Just as well, given the commitment she had for every other Saturday, and nothing was ever to get in the way of that.
She had to wonder if it was why her reflection was showing a woman who was worried, stressed, even drawn. Strange, since she wasn’t aware of feeling anything in particular at the moment, apart from mildly intrigued to know what was behind the call she’d just taken.
So, should she run upstairs now to make herself a little more presentable for the visit? A quick rub of foundation, brightened by a couple of dabs of blusher and several waves of the magic mascara wand? She didn’t usually wear makeup on her cleaning days, and since today was Wednesday she hadn’t bothered when she’d got up this morning. Jeff always said, in his usual gruff way, that she didn’t need it, she was lovely au naturel. He didn’t often lace his compliments with fancy French phrases, mainly because that was the only one he knew, but on the rare occasions he remembered it, it pleased her no end, especially in light of all they’d been through.
“Have you got any bookings today?” she asked, going through to the kitchen to put the washing machine on for a second spin. One was never enough these days, a warning that the old tub was probably about to break down. Joy! Another expense they couldn’t afford.
“Mm?” Jeff grunted.
“That was Lily on the phone,” Josie called out. “She and Jasper are on their way over.”
Sounding surprised, he said, “In the middle of the week? To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“She wouldn’t say, but she wants to talk to us both, so if you’ve got any fares . . .”
“Nothing so far,” he admitted despondently. “I’ll go over to the cab office later and check out what’s what. Are you putting the kettle on?”
“If you like.” After doing the honors, she went to stand in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, taking a moment to enjoy their new wallpaper with its smart gray stripes and floral border. They’d got it for a third off at the B&Q end-of-season sale, and it didn’t really matter that there hadn’t been quite enough, because no one ever looked behind the sofa, so who cared if there was a bare patch there? What was important to Josie was the fact that it really was quite similar to the paper in the extremely elegant drawing room at John Crover-Keene’s. This was one of the big houses on the other side of the hill that faced down over Temple Bay, where she cleaned on Mondays and did the laundry on Wednesdays. She used to do for a couple of his neighbors until they’d asked her to stop coming after the unfortunate business with Ryan last year. Mr. Crover-Keene wasn’t like them. He was sweet and considerate and understood completely that she wasn’t to blame (actually she probably was, in a way, but it was really good of him to take such a kindly view). Sadly, he was hardly ever at home, since the Close, as his house was called, was really only a weekend place for him, so it was usually empty when she went flitting about with feather duster and vac.
Imagine having all those bedrooms (six in total, all with their own bathrooms), a separate laundry room, a kitchen as big as the downstairs of her whole house, and acres of landscaped garden with a tennis court, pool, and fabulous view of the bay, and the place wasn’t lived in all the time. What it must be like to be that rich and single . . . She didn’t really envy him, though, because he always seemed quite lonely to her in spite of all the friends who came for weekends. She often thought of this when money was tight for her and Jeff, which was most of the time these days; at least they had their health, their kids, and each other.
Well, they certainly had Lily, anyway, who’d rung a few minutes ago to say she was on her way home to have a chat with them. And Jasper was coming too. Josie liked that name; it made him sound as though he came from a classy family, which actually he did. Jeff thought it was a bit pansyish, though he was fond enough of the boy. Jasper and Lily had been going out together since their first year at UWE—University of the West of England—and as far as Josie knew, Jasper’s Kent-based family were as smitten with Lily as their youngest son clearly was. She just hoped Lily didn’t end up going over to the southeast to live once she graduated, though of course Josie would never say that to her. After all, she couldn’t be tying her to the West Country forever, though if they were able to find some work in Bristol or Exeter, the nearest big cities, that would be lovely. Neither was too far away, about an hour on the train, a bit longer in the car, and they were really happening places, as Lily kept telling her.
Actually, Josie had been spending a little more time in Bristol these last few months. After she went to see Ryan at the prison, she and Lily would shop and chat, drink wine in harborfront cafés, and take in all the culture Lily could cram in before Josie had to catch a train home. It was just how Josie imagined her life might have been had she been able to go to uni, though back then she’d never even considered it an option. Certainly it wasn’t something her parents had encouraged. Actually, her dad might have if he’d lived long enough to see her scoop up five As and four Bs in her GCSEs, but he’d had a heart attack one Saturday afternoon at a football match when she was fourteen and hadn’t even made it to the emergency room. By then her parents had been divorced for almost ten years, so her mother, Eileen, hadn’t felt the loss anywhere near as deeply as Josie had. In fact, she’d uttered something horrible like “good bloody riddance” when she’d heard the news and hadn’t even bothered coming to the funeral. Jeff had been there, of course, and loads of her dad’s mates from around the estate, who’d all expressed how sorry they were that old Bill had gone and popped off at such a young age.
It was quite typical of her mother to make herself scarce at such a harrowing time, since she’d always been more about Eileen than about anyone else. Her dad hadn’t been like that. When he wasn’t drunk, which admittedly wasn’t often, he always showed an interest in her education, and every time she earned herself some good grades he’d taken her for a pizza to celebrate.
“Bet you’ll be a high-powered lawyer, or even prime minister, one of these days,” he used to tease her.
“Well done, it’s what school’s for, to keep you out of trouble,” was about the most Eileen could manage as she got ready for a hot night out, or to work a double shift at Tesco.
Since there was often a lot of trouble on the north side of the Temple Fields estate, it was a constant worry for those on the south side that the druggies, thugs, and hoods who kept the Kesterly police in business would surge over the border formed by the busy high street on some sort of teenage recruitment drive. It rarely happened that way, mainly because the south-side youths all too often took themselves north in search of adventure.
Josie herself never went much farther into the estate than the high street, and if Jeff was ever called to an address in the Zone, as they sometimes called it, he made sure he kept all his doors and windows locked until he was safely out again. In his opinion, taxi drivers should be allowed to carry guns into those streets, which Josie calmly agreed with since it could never happen. Her mother was forever telling Jeff he should arm himself with a baseball bat at the very least, since he never knew what sort of lowlife he might be picking up, whether on the estate or anywhere else, come to that.
Reading Group Guide
It probably won’t surprise you, after reading this book, to learn that breast cancer affected me personally. It moved into my family when it was least expected, and I’m afraid it didn’t leave until it was ready to take my mother with it. At the time I was nine years old and my brother was five, so you will see that it had a very profound effect on our lives.
I feel in many ways that Josie is based on my mother, not only through the experience of cancer, but because they seem to speak with the same voice. Those of you who have had similar experiences, either personally or with loved ones, will probably have heard them speaking too. The struggle for courage and understanding, and for a way to help close friends and family to come to terms with the shock of diagnosis, is a very difficult one, and perhaps that’s the main reason I decided to write this book.
There are many cancer charities with as many different ways of helping, and each is as valuable as the next. I chose to work with Breast Cancer Care in the United Kingdom because its main focus is the individual, the man or woman who needs support and advice
perhaps like they never have before. But that isn’t where it stops, because BCC also offers the same sort of backup for loved ones. Unfortunately, Breast Cancer Care doesn’t offer its services overseas, but all its publications and information are free and available on its website, www.breastcancercare.org.uk.
There are also many charities in the United States that provide support:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure:
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF):
National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF):
Something that has been a great mainstay for me over the years is friendship, the other core subject of this book. I feel that the one shared between Bel and Josie is one of the most unusual I’ve written, and yet one of the most poignant. I truly believe, as Bel’s mother says in the book, that we are all capable of being angels for someone, and Bel and Josie found an angel in each other. (Josie also found one in a very unlikely source, which I hope you found both amusing and uplifting.) Josie and Bel would never have come together were it not for breast cancer, and so through them I hope I have managed to portray a more positive aspect of the experience.
If you or someone close to you is currently suffering with this disease, or if, like me, you have lost someone, it is my hope that this book will help you to feel a little less alone.
With my warmest wishes to you all,
1. How would Josie’s life have been different if she had been able to tell her family about her condition immediately? Do you think her life would have been better or worse if she had?
2. Have you ever had a secret you felt you had to keep from those closest to you in order to protect them? How did you deal with it?
3. Did you relate to one of the two main characters, Josie and Bel, more than the other? Which one, and why?
4. Why did Josie take her husband, Jeff, back after he cheated on her? Did he deserve it? Would you have done the same? Do you think he redeemed himself in the end?
5. Bel is upset when Nick and Kristina get married so soon after the death of her sister, which puts her off to a rocky start with Kristina. What brings Bel and Kristina together in the end?
6. Do you think Josie’s son, Ryan, actually committed the crime he was accused of?
7. Why does Bel push Harry away?
8. In what ways do Bel and Josie complement each other? Do you think they would have discovered a friendship if horrible circumstances hadn’t thrust them together? Has their friendship changed them by the end of the book?
9. Which of the many themes of the novel (friendship, family ties, love, and loss, among others) struck you as most important?
10. Were you surprised by the ending? What did you think would happen?
11. Did you learn anything you didn’t know before about breast cancer because of reading the novel? Did the book change your thinking in any way?
12. How did Bel’s volunteer work affect her life? Have you ever volunteered with or would you ever consider volunteering with an organization like Breast Cancer Care?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Heart warmimg, heart breaking since this so happens in real life!
Very touching book. Loved the friendship and love that formed.
Never Say Goodbye I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Publishing Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review. 4 Stars This was a good book that took me forever to read. I spent almost two months reading this book. When I requested this book from Net Galley, I had absolutely no idea that it was about somebody battling breast cancer. I am not sure that I would have made that request at this point in my life if I known that little piece of information. My mother is currently battling breast cancer for the third time. Her first battle was over 17 years ago when she had her first mastectomy. We thought she had beat it but 9 years later it showed up again, so she went through more chemo. Once again, the family thought that she had beat it. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky and she was diagnosed with a different form of breast cancer in the fall of 2013. My life since her diagnosis has consisted of going to every surgery, every doctor appointment, and every chemo treatment. I had my first week in 2014 that I did not need to take her to a doctor appointment just a couple of weeks ago. I am sharing this short glimpse into my life because I think it has a big impact on how I look at a book like this one. Since I have spent a lot of time reading in the oncologist's office this year, I often found myself setting this book aside to read something else. I read to escape. At this point in my life, I want to read about things other than cancer. I think I chose the wrong time to read this book. This book was well written and I grew to like all of the characters. I must admit that I wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into Josie quite a few times during the book. I understand that she was in serious denial but some of her actions drove me crazy. I really liked Bel's character and found her friendship with Josie to be authentic. This is not an uplifting book. It deals with cancer and how it impacts the lives of everyone close to the patient. While Bel is not a cancer patient, she has quite a few difficult issues that she is dealing with during this story. Josie helps Bel out just as much as Bel helps Josie which is how friendship should work. All of the characters grow over the course of the story and discover what is really important. I would recommend this book to others with the warning that it deals with cancer. This was the first book by Susan Lewis that I have had the opportunity to read. I look forward to reading other works by this author in the future.
Title: Never Say Goodbye Author: Susan Lewis Publisher: Ballantine Books Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Age Recommended: New Adult-Adult Rating: 5 Review: "Never Say Goodbye" by Susan Lewis was quite a read and the first thing I will say is that this read was of a terminal illness. I believe that needs to be said up front, now this doesn't take anything away from this excellent read. "Never Say Goodbye" was beautiful well written by this author that was 'sensitively and humorously told' with some well portrayed, colorful, depicted, believable and defined characters with each one having their own story and problems that were to be dealt with. Even though this was not for the most part a happy heartwarming read for it was sad at times, but still it was a good read that did have some amusing moments. I found this a gripping story that once I got into this read I found it hard to put down because in the read I found out so much more than just about 'the cancer' but more about 'friendship, love, family bonds, even romance and how people are sent to you just at the right time when you need them the most.'
First and foremost, when I search for a new book to read (especially by an author I have not read previously), there are a few key critical factors (1) Does the front cover draw me in and is it a high resolution image? (2) The synopsis of the book – does it appeal to me? (3) Praise by another author I read or follow? (4) Other reviews (which is sometimes hard if a pre-release). Yes, Yes, and YES . . . to all of the above, as “Never Say Goodbye” was brilliantly written and bittersweet. Having read all of Diane Chamberlain’s books (one of my favorite authors), to see her quote on the front cover – sealed the deal, even before I began reading. And oh, the stunning cover… I loved everything about this poignant story, as did not disappoint. Was so impressed with Susan Lewis, the author – I will most definitely be reading more from this talented storyteller. The characters were real and each of them experienced such growth from the time the story began, until it ended--excited to share in their journey. The ending was perfect, and you come away with a sense of peace and reflection. Readers will fall in love with each of the characters, and a thought provoking takeaway long after the book ends. The altruistic Josie, loving wife and mother who puts her family first; Jeff the hard nose husband and father which turned out to be a loveable humble puppy; Ryan and Lilly – her children which she always protects; and Bella, which I loved from the beginning to the end – an angel and a best friend we all want to have in our back pocket. Her past, present and future were also an integral part of the book. This book is more than differences between poor and rich, and cancer - is about friendship, love, family bonds, even romance -how circumstances and obstacles make us stronger, and how people or angels are sent to us at just the right time when we need them the most (sometimes a family member will just not do). This book has special meaning to me, as my mom had just received the news she has colon cancer. She worked out six days a week (age 81) and very healthy and fit, with no history of cancer in the family. My dad had just received the diagnosis of leukemia (stage one) a few months prior. During this last week in the hospital, I started this book as perfect timing. Never Say Goodbye really demonstrated to me how a cancer victim worries about family members more than themselves and how faith, determination, and the support of close friends can heal their souls and bodies. You could read this book in one weekend, as you will not want to put it down; however, it took me longer to read as was traveling from South Florida to NC and back, taking care of my mom in the hospital. I so enjoyed this quote, “The cancer and treatment are only the staples holding things together; the pages are for the story of my life and I intend to keep filling them.” Resilience and courage are the key points of this powerful yet compelling story, told with sensitivity and compassion. I highly recommend the book and this new found author! Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.