My book club’s chosen read for this month was Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett. I really liked the sound of this book which promised to be a haunting and captivating read that touches on some difficult subject matter.
Imagine Me Gone follows the story of a family and a significant event which changes their lives forever, the day that a father walks into the woods never to return. We learn that the father of the family, John, is affected by depression, a darkness which results in him being out of his family’s life forever. Through this novel, Adam Haslett explores the impact of mental illness not only on an individual but those closest to them. Each of the chapters is told from the perspective of a different family member, including John and his wife Margaret, and their children Michael, Celia and Alec. Over the course of the novel we see the events that shape their lives as individuals and as a family unit, and how together they try to overcome the difficulties that life has presented, and try to process the loss to their family. Of these characters we hear from Michael the most, and see his own journey towards the illness that consumed his father.
As you can expect from a novel that deals with the tragic and complex issue of mental health, there is a sadness and a melancholy to this story. But as we see the impact on the family, we also see how they try to help and save one and other. It also explores each of the characters as individuals and we learn a little about them and their own life journeys and various life events are covered along the way. I must admit though that whilst the premise intrigued me I did struggle a little to get into this book. I can’t really pinpoint exactly why, and perhaps it is more of a case of wrong book at the wrong time for me as there were things in my life over the past week that led me to be distracted from this story. That said there is plenty to like about this book. There were some beautifully written passages within dealing with complex and emotive subject matter, and the lives of the characters themselves were interesting to discover. Their stories were told with emotion and compassion, and the use of multiple perspectives provides insight into the wider affects of mental illness over a period of time.
Whilst I did not enjoy Imagine Me Gone as much as I had hoped, I feel it is a well written story which explores one family’s past and and how they must work together to save their future.