The summer after Abby's first year of college, eight months after doctors find a malignant tumor in her mother's brain, she and her parents take a trip to northern New Hampshire. The vacation is her father's idea: five days at a historic resort, where long naps are encouraged, cocktails are served on a wide veranda in the afternoons, and men are expected to wear jackets after six. A small procession of friends and former neighbors will come to visit Helen, and, although it goes unspoken, to possibly say goodbye.
Abby's parents aren't the people they'd been when she left for school: Illness has turned her playful, warm mother Helen into a disabled person and her father Elliott into a steward. Elliott is the only one in the family who knows that Helen's tumor is inoperable - and over the course of the week it is his job to impart this news.
As the week progresses, Helen's friends deal with her illness in varied, sometimes surprising ways, and Abby is free to grow up or fall apart as she sees fit. She spends the nights in New Hampshire trying to forget her mother, aided by the youthful, untroubled employees of the hotel, and the week becomes an awakening for her in many ways.
Alternating between the perspectives of Elliott, Helen, and Abby, Hello Goodbyeis a luminous and intimate portrayal of a family dealing with crisis and acceptance.