Of all the films, video games, TV series, comics, and books that I’ll consume this year, few will move me as deeply as Adam Haslett’s latest novel, Imagine Me Gone.
When John is hospitalized for “depression” in 1960s London, his fiance Margaret stays by his side. They eventually marry and have three children, Michael, Celia, and Alec. They move to New England, where, several years later, John commits suicide. The bulk of Haslett’s novel follows the family’s efforts to care for one another. More specifically, mother and siblings band together to support Michael, who gradually comes undone.
Haslett’s writing is part comedy, part drama, but completely brilliant. It’s moments of heart-break are alleviated by some of the wittiest humor I’ve recently read. His observations of family dynamics and dysfunction are as keen as any I’ve ever read. One of Haslett’s main themes, the reality that we can never truly know another person because we can never truly see another person, is both a damning accusation and an inspiration to see and love better.
Michael is one of the funniest characters you’ll encounter this year, even as he slowly slips away from the reader. Through him, Haslett reveals both an encyclopedic knowledge of music (particularly disco, funk, and hip hop) and the ways in which both communal and individual experiences of trauma shape pop culture creations.
Ironically, less than a week after finishing Imagine Me Gone, my family experienced a tragedy (the sudden, unexpected death of a beloved relative). That loss increased my appreciation for Haslett’s work, which, in small ways, continues to guide me through the grieving process.
Imagine Me Gone (Little, Brown and Company, 368 pp.) is one of the few, legit must-read books of the year.