Review: He’s Gone – Deb Caletti

I’ve read a couple of Caletti’s young adult novels and I’ve loved them. Her work is like literary catmint to me, which is weird because Caletti writes about emotions and slow paced moments of change rather than adventurous plots. Her books are pure character studies of people trying to move, and usually I like the introspection that’s characteristic to Caletti, but here it doesn’t quite work. Here, it’s taken a step too far. The balance is gone.
”But he’s gone. He’s gone, and I don’t know what’s happened, but I know I wanted him gone.”
Dani wakes up in an empty house and takes her old dog out. She enjoys the morning and makes her own coffee for a change. She plunges into her personal history for a moment, comes back, and realises her husband, Ian, is gone. Just like her YA books are about rejecting a bad relationship for a better self-worth—in the ones I’ve read at least—this book is about an adult, a middle-aged mother, learning new things about herself when her crutch, her husband, is gone. The book is told from Dani’s point of view with first person voice. She goes through the motions of realising someone close to her has disappeared and beginning the search process. She talks to the neighbours, calls family and friends, and all the while she’s slowly working through her two failed marriages in her mind. She thinks about her own choices, she thinks about Ian’s choices, and she reflects on how those choices affected their children, and everyone else around them. The problem is, that’s all she does. Dani takes a trip up the river Denial, climbs ashore, and sets up camp in Memory land.
”You learn, she says. You go from there. And then you change.“
Maybe it’s because of the set up—the agony of having to wait, to go slowly mad with worry and without having anything concrete to do—that Caletti relies so heavily on the introspection and itemising all the wrongs of Dani’s life. Unfortunately when the flashbacks are paired with inactive present, the book becomes impenetrable and boring. Caletti doesn’t even properly show the discussions Dani has with the police rather than tells about them in passing after the fact. So, she’s a suspect in her husbands disappearance that wouldn’t be interesting to the reader. Why would it be? The underlying story and the epiphany it leads to are good. Caletti even dabbles with an unreliable narrator, but when the balance is off everything slides to the side, just out of reach, off the pier and into the waters of the Pacific. The book is set in Seattle if you couldn’t tell. Fans of Caletti’s work might enjoy reading this book, as long as they don’t mind switching the teenaged protagonist to her mother, but I hesitate to recommend this to anyone who doesn’t relish reading about thorough navel-gazing. 
  I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. 
 Series: N/A Pages: 352 (paperback) 
Publisher: Random House Imprint: Bantam 
Published: Expected May 21st 2013
 Source: NetGalley

39 thoughts on “Review: He’s Gone – Deb Caletti

  1. Lauren Elizabeth says:

    Oh no, navel gazing isn't my thing. I do love Deb's YA books, so I was considering giving this a try, but I'm not sure it's for me after all. Thanks for your honest review! 🙂

  2. Naida says:

    Hmmmm…I don't know about switching the teenage protagonist to her mother or the navel gazing either, but the idea of finding that someone just disappeared sounds interesting.

  3. rameau says:

    It's a lost art form, navel-gazing. P.S. I should get proper internet next week and be back in the land of bloggers after that. *crosses fingers*

  4. rameau says:

    I hope you like the book better than I did. Or at least enough to give her another chance whenever she writes another novel for adults.

  5. rameau says:

    Adult. Definitely an adult novel. Adult characters and adult themes, although I can't remember any racy content. It's refreshing to read a non-erotic adult book these days.

  6. rameau says:

    What kind of action are we talking about? If it's the fast paced kind, then no, but if it's the kind where there's a clear story and each motion has a distinct purpose, then maybe.

  7. rameau says:

    I could be wrong but I do think Caletti sets all her books in the Pacific NW, at least the two other books I've read from her had similar settings. Do you read YA? You could try Stay instead.

  8. Darlene says:

    It's disappointing when an author you normally love doesn't quite impress you. This one sounds like it has a good premise, just didn't pull it off.

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