Summary and book reviews of Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Imagine Me Gone

by Adam Haslett

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

From a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, a story of a family facing the ultimate question: how far will we go for those we love the most?

When Margaret's fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic, and the story of how, over the span of decades, his younger siblings - the responsible Celia and the tightly controlled Alec - struggle along with their mother to care for Michael's increasingly troubled existence. Adam Haslett has given us something rare: a novel with the power to change how you see the most important people in your life.

Alec

As I stepped out of the cabin, whiteness blinded me. The snow-covered yard glistened under the full sun. Icicles lining the roof of the shed dripped with meltwater. The fir trees, which had stood motionless and black against the gray sky, appeared alive again, green and moist in the fresh light. The footprints that Michael and I had made on the snowy path were dissolving, fading into ovals on the flagstone. Beneath our tracks in the driveway I could see gravel for the first time since we'd arrived. For weeks it had been frigid cold, but now had come this December thaw. I wasn't certain what day it was, or what time, only that it had to be well after noon already.

Across the road stood the young lobsterman's truck. Brown water seeped from the icy muck caked to its undercarriage. The red tarp covering his woodpile showed through a dome of melting snow. Up the slope, on the roof of his little white Cape, smoke rose from the chimney into the sheer blue.

I had to ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The parents and siblings here are interdependent in many ways, especially as they try to rescue each other from the present reality and aftermath of mental illness. This is a powerful read for fans of family stories.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

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Media Reviews

The Boston Globe

Imagine Me Gone respects the mystery of how things happen the way they happen, while brilliantly conjuring the tide-like pull with which dreaded possibilities become harsh inevitability.

New York Times Book Review

Ambitious and stirring . . . With Imagine Me Gone, Haslett has reached another level, affording readers a full and luminous depiction of a mind under siege . . . By putting the readers in the same position as [oldest son] Michael's family members, Haslett has pulled off something of a brilliant trick: We feel precisely what they feel-the frustration, the protectiveness, the hope and fear and, yes, the obligation.

Wall Street Journal

Haslett is one of the country's most talented writers, equipped with a sixth sense for characterization and a limber, unpretentious style. Perhaps his rarest gift is the apprehension of the invisible connections that tie people together

Esquire

Imagine Me Gone brilliantly captures the excruciating burden of love and the role it plays in both our survival and our destruction. Haslett suspends a sense of dread over you like an anvil from page one, cutting the rope that holds it in the brutal last act. You'd be a fool to look away.

Miami Herald

A devastating family drama . . . Haslett's considerable skills as a writer turn domestic conflicts into something more profound

The Huffington Post

An ambitious book about music, anxiety, and a family determined to stick together after fracturing loss, Imagine Me Gone is proof that realistic stories have immense power.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Imagine Me Gone is a character novel to be savored for its complex and empathetic portrait of family. Michael is a compelling character, witty and heartbreaking. This is not a novel driven by plot but by its relentless tides of sorrow and hope. Like his family, you'll soon see the inevitable end but only read faster as it hurtles closer.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Occasionally, the narrative style (it switches among monologues, letters, and messages from the doctor's office) feels stiff. But in Michael, Haslett has created a most memorable character. This is a hypnotic and haunting novel.

Booklist

Starred Review. Haslett narrates this soaring, heartrending novel from the revolving points of view of each family member, plumbing the psychologies of his characters. The result is a polyphonic page-turner that slowly reveals its orbit around Michael, the eldest son.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. As vivid and moving as the novel is, it's not because Haslett strives to surprise but because he's so mindful and expressive of how much precious life there is in both normalcy and anguish.

Author Blurb Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America
Imagine Me Gone is beautiful, it's terrifying, it's intimate and epic, and it's devastating - one of the great books about loss and mourning and the ineluctable laws that govern the political economy of families. I cannot describe the force or the depth of its accomplishment except to say that this magnificent work of art has overwhelmed me and broken my heart. It will take me a long time to come to terms with this novel.

Author Blurb Peter Carey, Man Booker Prize winner for True History of the Kelly Gang
Imagine Me Gone is literature of the highest order. It manages to be both dreadfully sad and hilariously funny all at once. It is luminous with love.

Author Blurb Joy Williams, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Quick and the Dead
Adam Haslett's second novel is about family, love, forgotten music, and a despair that proves unbearable, and has one of the most harrowing and sustained descriptions of a mind in obsessive turmoil and disrepair that I've ever read. Haslett is a marvelously lucid and intelligent writer.

Reader Reviews

Marianne Morris

Just a stunning book.
You just have to read it. I have a fairly high level for praise, having read many, many okay books. This book challenges my capability for awe and appreciation.

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Beyond the Book

How Is Mental Illness Passed through Families?

In Imagine Me Gone, John and his son Michael, both struggle with mental illness.

Significant research has been conducted to search for the genetic basis for mental disorders. Family linkage and twin studies are particularly revealing. At present, there is no simple answer as to how mental illness might pass through families; environmental factors and the child's development interact with genetics to make it a very complex matter. Any mental disorder is probably encoded for by multiple genes, meaning it cannot be detected by a simple genetic test as is possible for conditions like Down's syndrome or cystic fibrosis.

However, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the susceptibility to mental illness "is ...

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