Review: Imagine Me Gone

 

imagine-me-gone
(image credit: npr.org)

Adam Haslett is a master at voice. Imagine Me Gone narrates the devastating effects of mental illness through the testimony of five family members. Each chapter alternates scenes, and even the process of aging is sensory as you hear the characters narrate scenes in their family saga over a 30 year stretch. The early chapter told by Celia, at five years old, was perfect. Later, you can almost feel the eyes rolling in the angsty adolescent portions. You don’t just see the family grow up, you hear it in their thoughts as they learn to cope with life and pain.

It’s not an easy read—not for its style, which is relatively fluent—but thematically heavy. Yet for all the raw and biting moments, there is a rich tenderness that is so far elevated above the cloying sentimentality of our age it feels otherworldly. The depth and integrity of these characters as humans will probably exceed many of the real ones you know.

Haslett achieves a super-balance of humor and beauty, tragedy and comfort, realism without cynicism. I hope to read more of his work.

My rating: 4/5

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