There are three types of really hard goodbyes: the long, slow burn goodbye, when you have to watch the end coming together, the goodbye that needs to happen for reasons beyond your control, and the goodbye where one person is optimistic and hopeful, but the other just can bring themselves to it. Somehow, Rainbow Rowell manages to mix all of those three terribly emotional goodbyes together to give us the saddest drive to Minnesota ever.
Why does the long, slow burn hurt? Because you have to try and make every moment important and special, but you’re also spending those moments so sad and devastated. Park’s inability to understand how Eleanor could sleep through any moment of it is so understandable. Luckily, these desperate grasps at what little time they have left give us some of the loveliest lines in the book. Eleanor “held his beautiful face and kissed him like the end of the world” and Park thought that “the whole sky was the color of her skin” (300).
Why do the reasons outside of our control make goodbyes so much worse? Because saying goodbye when you really love someone is tragic. When there isn’t any anger or hurt, the space gets filled with sadness. These chapters are so sad; I can barely typed about them without crying. Park’s refrain of “She won’t be there” and Eleanor’s “There’s only one of him” kill me. Park tells Eleanor, “It’s up to us not to lose this” (305), but that seems so unfair. They aren’t to blame for this initial separation, but a long-term one would be their fault? And I get upset imagining anyone having to try and drive stick, so you can guess what these chapters are like for me.
What happens when one person is optimistic and the other doesn’t think they can afford to be? The uneven promises at the end of this section — Park’s insistence of calling, Eleanor’s quiet deflection. The space between their outlooks reveals itself during and after their almost-sex scene: Eleanor wants to have sex, even without a condom, because it could be their only chance. Park refuses because he has to believe it isn’t. Eleanor questions his thinking, and we all wait for Park to convince us that of course the universe will give them back to each other. How could it not?
What else? What else!
This sex-y scene and the previous one in the backseat are so well done. I love the remark that nothing with Park is shameful and I love that the novel alludes to the fact that there are many steps between making out and having sex. Christine and I have previously discussed how television shows — especially teenagers on television shows — so frequently forget this.
Eleanor wishing she could go back for Maisie and then realizing she couldn’t is so sad.
I love that “Dork” is the last thing that Eleanor whispers to Park.
When I’m feeling as emotional as I am now, I have to recommend some poetry. Here are four poems that fit with the feeling of these chapters:
Time Does Not Bring Relief — Edna St. Vincent Millay
Letter to NY — Elizabeth Bishop
Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell –Marty McConnell
A Love Song — William Carlos Willams