He’s Gone by Deb Caletti
From the best of my ability, I shall summarize what this book was about and what some of my thoughts were initially reading through it.
So the main character and our narrator, is Dani, a wife whose husband has suddenly and without a trace, disappeared. It becomes revealed as the story unfolds that the novel has started as her way of confessing that she’s not sure what happened to her husband, Ian, because she had taken two Vicodin and drank wine at his work party the night before, and subsequently dealt with a blackout. She is an anxious woman who came out of an abusive relationship with her ex-husband Mark, and found herself trying to rescue yet another man, Ian, in her second marriage.
The book involves the themes of rescue and transformation. Ian was someone who never quite earned his father’s approval and so he went about attempting to earn it throughout his life. His father had a hobby of preserving butterflies so Ian took it up when his father passed and so the symbolization in that is used throughout the novel.
It becomes clearer to the reader how much Ian and Dani’s relationship was a replication of her and Mark’s, up until a confession where Dani reveals how Ian once grabbed her and how traumatic that was for her. Dani decides she wants to leave the relationship but never has the chance.
Ian is eventually found and Dani moves on with her life, transforming into a better and stronger woman after this ordeal.
Some of my initial thoughts were that (prior to page 100):
Dani annoys me. She’s so anxious and worried as a character over conventional (social) issues that she could likely benefit from psychological treatment. She was in an abusive relationship for years though and Ian sounds like an Asshole with OCPD or at least some excessive significant perfectionism and controlling issues. She’s better off without him, really. There are some descriptions that I enjoy but I’ve thought a few times of dropping off on the reading. However I’ll hold on. My rating thus far is 2-3/5. The book needs to backtrack on their relationship but it’s not my style for this piece. I find her somewhat difficult to relate to and the use of ‘crazy’ bothers me to no end. She also moved away from her values and her interactions with the reader feels unnecessary and childish. Might be too harsh with ‘crazy’ and such as characters have their own views that don’t necessarily reflect the author’s but the stigmatization in books is unexpected and bothersome to me.
Looking back now, I can see how it was necessary for Dani to reveal in parts how her and Ian’s relationship was. It was just very long and drawn out, in a way. I feel if you’ve been in a romantic relationship, you could relate more to this book than I have. I thought it’d be more inspiring or spooky and less romantic and issue oriented, but that’s a misjudgment on my part. I did enjoy parts of it, but I definitely felt the way I felt about ‘The Creature of the Night’, in which I wanted to stop reading before I finished it.
However if you meet any of these three criteria:
- You struggle with rescuing other people
- You see someone struggling and wish to fix them
- You’ve dealt with relationship abuse in the past
Then I recommend this as a 4/5 rescues you need to read.
QUOTES AND MY THOUGHTS:
A. “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are.” – Anais Nia
B. “Transformation is a marvelous thing. Though wonderful to watch, transformation is not a particularly pleasant process for the subject involved” – Vladimir Nabokou
These are two quotes that are stated before the novel begins. I can see now, after having read the book, how necessary and revealing they were about the story line. The book discusses a lot about past histories and the selves we bring along with us in our lives and how we repeat the same mistakes we either grew up around or have learned to incorporate in our lives. If you like that sort of thing or are interested in a woman growing from abusive relationship to abusive relationship and then leaving it all behind, this is the book for you!
I also really like that second quote as it’s something we can all likely relate to. And it’s true for Recovery and Wellness. 🙂
“A rare moment of peace, the kind you take in and vow to hold on to but never can. Those moments are gone at the first traffic jam or botched bank statements, in spite of your best intentions” – p. 10
I liked this quote from the novel. 🙂 I was caught by the description in the first chapter when I began reading and maybe it was due to my restrictive deadline that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. Either way, this is a piece that stood out to me, as I like the idea of it and it captures how fleeting our emotions can be, whether they’re negative or positive, even when–especially when–they feel like they’ll go on forever. Look out for and hold onto the little moments. ❤
2. “Ian’s father need–it was the kind of hole you saw and wanted to heal for someone you loved. After trying that routine twice, and failing, with Mark, with Ian, I knew something else, too: It’s human nature to want to help and soothe and save with your love, but it’s also arrogant” – p. 51
This really sums up this book and her character progression through it. She recognizes the mistakes she made in the past, compromising her values and staying with someone who didn’t truly respect or love her, and never quite having the strength or courage to leave. This is alluded to later on in the novel as well. I don’t have deep issues, if many, with rescuing people and having read ‘Fuck Feelings’ I can see the demise of trying to do so and how it’s just not possible. So I couldn’t relate to her on this end as it wasn’t something I’ve deeply struggled with. I’ve likely had a little bit of that feeling but not enough to think my love and caring would patch up someone else. If anything, I’m quite aware of how that love and caring isn’t enough. Even in the best of times
3. “In marriage there are things you don’t know about your partner. Always. The real thoughts in his head as he drifts off to sleep with his shoulders turned away from you-you can’t even guess. But you want to believe you do know. That a person is knowable. You need this belief, it’s a necessary denial. How can you go about everyday life otherwise?” – p. 81
This novel explores a lot about how there aren’t ways to truly know a person, a thought I’ve used before in my own characters and one that’s particularly interesting if you enjoy any of those investigation Discovery channels. Just thought this was neat. 😉
4. “I was elevated by love. I felt connected to all people and things, struck by our common humanity and the beauty of it… I noticed the lovely curve of orange peels, the bittersweet tenderness of twilight” – p. 84
I loved this description here. True bliss can be like this ❤
5. “It’s your own brain. It should be on your side. So often it’s your very own self that betrays you, that’s the thing” – p. 99
Thought this was exceptionally nice. 🙂 Especially for any of us out there with mental health issues. It’s funny to come to realize that just because it’s our brain, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily looking out for our best lives all the time. It’s good to realize through Recovery that there’s a difference between your brain and your mind. And that you’re more than a head, but a body, too. Also, just because you think something doesn’t make it true. And, you are not your brain. ❤
6. “I wanted to be small but large too, I wanted to be both. These were the themes of our relationship: Dominance, control. Abuser, victim. It’s what you get when you give up your power, when you don’t realize that your strength is your self-respect. No one has the right to abuse you, sure, but no one should hand over that right, either” – p. 108
I feel this might be the most controversial quote to include here, but I’m going to swing for it. I don’t know how true or untrue this is, but it stood out to me so I thought I would include it within the featured quotes section. I like the concept that you have power and strength in your self-respect and that not handing it over to someone exemplifies defiance and survivorship. If that makes sense? It’s sort of like a two way relationship in a sense, like the idea that someone who is bullying you can only really hurt you (words wise) if you let them. I don’t know how accurate that is, but the concept of it may be simplified and it seems honest like that?
7. “Oh, how we love and overuse fine, our all-purpose little evasion. Fine means not fine. Fine means pity me. Fine means don’t ask” – p. 113
This reminded me of the FINE acronym, fucked up, insecure, neurotic and emotional. XD
8. “There’s a hand on my arm and just in time, because the floor appears to be moving” – p. 126
I liked this quote because I found myself getting really sucked into what was happening. So I thought I’d include that tidbit here.
9. “I look out at the city. So many stories there, in each of those windows and tiny cars. Every single person has his or her own story line going on at that very moment, one that involves the urgency of right now, but with motivations and themes that go back generations. Out there are lost fortunes and broken hearts and great ideas and daughters who’ve never truly left home” – p. 126
See that theme of histories here? Mmhmm. I liked this concept a lot. I’ve always thought about it in moments like these, wondering where that next car is going, who they are, what their home is like, who they’ve been… I just find it fascinating and incredibly mind-boggling. Like how you can think about someone who has crowd surfed at 16 and now that you’re X age, you never got that one experience at 16 of crowd surfing, but someone out there, in the world, has. It makes me think of this existential crisis I had while in college, of how as a writer, I’ve created tons of characters and lives through words, and yet, very few of them have been things I’ve actually experienced…and that headspace of creativity and literary vision is so wonky and flattering and floaty. It’s interesting how you can KNOW someone without them even truly existing.
10. “It hadn’t really disappeared. Of course it hadn’t. It was right there all along” – p. 136
Talking about a magic trick with a coin here but it fits with Ian’s disappearance as well XD
11. “Your history, it follows you. It’s under your skin and in your cells and it flows through your blood, and so you can’t escape it. You grew up hiding from the storms under your own roof, so you look for lightning to live with. The two of you, he and you, you rescue each other. You dodge the big shadows and cling to each other, two lost souls, as night falls on that lifeboat” – p. 185
More about history. ❤ And rescue.
12. “Ghosts never show themselves in the daylight. Nightmares don’t come during an afternoon nap” – p. 190
I really love this quote. It reminds me so much of my own short story series, that maybe you guys will one day see here: the Dr. Cory Matthews series. I’ve used that prior sentence in this quote a few times in his series, and so it was neat to see it fitting elsewhere with other characters in another book. ❤
13. “So much of your life is loss–contemplating loss, avoiding loss, dealing with loss. Objects go, cereal goes, time, places, people” – p. 203
Thought this was poignant. Can you tell I’m getting tired of writing for this book review? *blushes* sorry!!
14. “Abandonment and the self-sufficiency she’d had the guts to muster had left my mother with a don’t mess with me toughness that would occasionally burn fierce and frightening. It was a monumental display but a trick of the eye. There was no fire, not really–only a child waving a plastic flashlight in her own dark night” – p. 251
Dani describing her mother, this jumped out at me.
15. “We have messes, but mostly we’re just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got” – p. 251
I’ll be honest, I’m getting cranky and irritable, I haven’t had breakfast yet and am working on finishing this before I do ^^; Oops.
I like the honesty and the plainness of this quote. It’s very true, sometimes we are so hard on ourselves, when we’re just doing the best we can with what we’ve got at that very moment. Never forget that. ❤ Life is a process.
16. “He had to rescue himself but couldn’t. I had to rescue myself but never did” – p. 320
If you wind up reading this book, this revelation is amazing. It ties in the whole theme of rescue so well. It’s sad yet wonderful. I hope these quotes can get you thinking if rescue is a theme in your life, and what you may want to do about that, if anything at all.
17. “‘I never want to live anywhere else. I could die here and be happy.’ . . . that’s weirdly comforting. I never got to say goodbye, and this is the last place he was and the rightest place for me to grieve him, to grieve us. I could run from here, but there are things I need to look hard at–my own guilt, but even more, the place where I’ve been merely human, too” – p. 322
Dani is finally transforming. I’m glad we get that glimpse, even if it’s at the end 😛
18. “In this cocoon there is work to be done. Old structures are remade. I think, I write, I read. I try to make peace with myself. I try to remember the simple but difficult truth that we mostly do the best we can, given that we’ve got to drag our histories along with us” – p. 323
The theme of transformation continues. 🙂 I like the idea that structures are remade and that next sentence right after. It’s very nice. And again, doing the best you can and giving yourself credit for that.
19. “So I will build my own protective layer, made from experience and hard-won awareness. I have promised myself this. I will change, slowly, over months and years. And when I emerge, I will not fear long voyages over water. If I become tired or terrified and the promise of rescue arrives–a boat, a net, an outstretched hand–I will turn my back to it. I will turn my back to it and rise and fly, my tissue-paper wings evolving in midair, becoming strong as I soar over now that hill and the next and the next” – p. 323
A fitting final note. At least Dani becomes aware of her troubles and what she needs to work on for self-improvement and we’re left with the hope that she can manage this, after all she’s been through, and that if we’re in need of such transformation ourselves that we can also achieve it. It’s fitting in a way that we don’t get to witness the work she puts into herself to improve, just as Recovery is a process and for instance, right now, today, I don’t know where my Recovery journey will take me three years from now. It’s unfinished, it’s a work in progress, and I’m very aware of how I’m along for the ride and the story is left unwritten from this point on. (And for some mind bogglingness: if you think about it the past is being written as you exist in the present…each moment, each second, weird, huh?)
At the same time, I would have liked to see how she grew and maybe that’s the type of book I’m attracted to. 🙂 That and ghosts/paranormal/afterlife and murder/psychopathy and mental health stuffs. 😀 So diverse!!
I’m also glad that Dani has grown to not be welcoming of rescue, and that she is strong enough now to rescue HERSELF. 🙂
That’s where our true power lies!! Maybe you weren’t able to rescue yourself years ago, yet, NOW you can. ❤
The previous book review was brought to you by a couple days worth of work. So enjoy it! XD So aggressive 😉
The next book I’m reading is: Living with Severe OCD by Marie Gius. It’s already annoyed me and it’s going to be a wicked exposure.
Look out for more posts today!!! Doing ALL of the blogging.
Stay safe. ❤