Dani wakes up, and her husband, Ian, is not beside her. At first, she thinks he’s just out, but as time passes, she knows he is gone. She doesn’t know if he left voluntarily, or if something has happened to him, and she has no memory of certain parts of the previous night. In this book, she thinks over her history with him and struggles to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing.
I love Deb Caletti. Her books are so soft and quiet. This is her first adult novel, and I knew it would be good. I still can’t say that any of them that I’ve read thus far have been as good as The Nature of Jade, but they’ve mostly been super high quality, and this one was no different. The only real difference was the age and life experience of the narrator. It was good to see a narrator who was older (about 40) and who has lived through a bad marriage, a nasty divorce, an affair, single momhood, and a second bad marriage. There was a lot to learn here, and a lot to feel.
Interestingly, Dani is a very quiet narrator. There isn’t a lot of action in the book, and Dani doesn’t do much but recount and remember. Back in November, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote my third draft of a novel of mine called Summer Rain, and I remember being frustrated because my narrator was so quiet, and all she did was sit around and remember stuff. But Dani was just the same. The difference? Dani still had to interact with people, whereas my narrator pretty much just interacted with her immediate family. Even a quiet person still has neighbors, grocery store clerks, doctors, bank tellers, etc. It’s actually made me wonder if my current draft or the NaNo draft will be better in the long run to work with. I did like the NaNo draft, and it carried more emotion in it than I expected. It might be possible to shape it up into something decent.
But that’s beside the point and has nothing to do with He’s Gone.
I enjoyed the book. Despite the fact that nothing really happens, action-wise, I couldn’t put it down. I empathized with the characters, even when I hated them. I loved that Dani doesn’t end up reaching out to Nathan for rescue (and specifically says she’s avoiding that particular thing at the end). I loved that she’s not a hero, and her husband was not a saint. I love that her relationship with his ex-wife and daughters is never improved, but actually worsened. It was all so real, which is something Caletti always does so well.
My only real quibbles were the few instances of “I need to make this super real so let me talk about farts” sorts of moments, the mandatory “there’s lots of emotions so let’s vomit” scene (which at least wasn’t too graphic), and surprisingly, actually finding out what happened to Ian at the end. I liked the not-knowing. It would have been far more interesting if no one ever knew what happened to him. It’s the sort of book I’d like to write – exploring what happens in the years after a disappearance, never knowing. I understand why we had to find out, given that Dani was about to confess to her blackouts and possible motive for killing him (which she keeps seeing herself do in dreams). But still, I wish the book hadn’t gone that direction.
Otherwise, I was very happy with the book. And I loved that I might understand my own writing a bit better now.