When Margaret’s fiancé is hospitalized for depression in the 1960s, she is shaken but ultimately unwilling to abandon the man she loves. Imagine Me Gone traces the aftershock of Margaret’s fateful choice as John’s condition ripples out over the subsequent decades, affecting not only their life together but the lives of their three children.
Although depression and anxiety are foes that many authors have explored in the pages of literature, it is hard to think of a novel that presents as nuanced and intimate a portrait of these diseases as Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone. Told from the perspectives of each of the five members of the family, the novel offers a shockingly raw portrayal of how mental illness afflicts individuals as well as families, sometimes tearing them apart but also binding them closer. But to simply label this as a book about depression—however expert its portrayal—minimizes what Haslett, a previous Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, has achieved with his third work of fiction. At its core, this is a pensive examination of the very human struggle to connect and find peace—with others and with ourselves—and the nature of time and how it passes. Haslett’s keen eye for and rigorous examination of the intricate messiness of family dynamics calls to mind Jonathan Franzen’s 21st-century masterpiece on intergenerational dysfunction, The Corrections, although Haslett’s approach, while at times playful, is ultimately more tender and sympathetic.
Imagine Me Gone is immensely personal and private, yet feels universal and ultimately essential in its scope. In its pages, Haslett has laid bare the agonies and ecstasies of the human condition and the familial ties that bind. The end result is a book that you do not read so much as feel, deeply and intensely in the very marrow of your bones.