Imagine Me Gone by author Adam Haslett
I have had Imagine Me Gone sitting on my kindle for years. Honestly, years.
I had been putting off reading it because I was certain it was going to make me cry. Now that I’ve read it and it didn’t make me cry I’m pretty disappointed. Some of you may think that’s odd but the rest of you appreciate the value of a good cathartic tear-jerker!
I really thought that a book about a family suffering with clinical depression through the generations would be more touching to me. I’ve had my own bouts of depression and mental illness as well as a family history of it so I figured if anything would be relatable to me it would be this. But it just never plucked my heart strings.
Imagine Me Gone is told through shifting perspectives. Each chapter rotates through different family members describing their personal experiences either with mental illness or being adjacent to mental illness.
My main problem with the book is that all of the characters feel like stereotypes. They are archetypes such as: the concerned but fragile mother, the depressed hipster, the gay man-whore, the daughter who rose above it all. They’re all kind of predictable and none of them are very likable. Not that characters have to be likable but it does make it harder to want to pick up a book when you don’t want to read about any of them.
Additionally, the non-linear storytelling doesn’t do enough to ground the characters in a narrative. There’s not really a plot, per se. More of a series of anecdotes that are connected by these people being blood relatives and nothing more. Once again, that style is not necessarily bad, it just needs to put in more effort to engage the reader and invest them in staying until the end.
I kept waiting for the book to do more. To find its footing or direction, but it didn’t. I think the goal was to give a glimpse into the mundane ways that depression and mental illness can affect everyone surrounding the bearer of the illness but it never found the emotional impact needed to make it memorable.
There was one very good chapter toward the end of the book. It would be the only spoiler of the book to describe it though so I’ll refrain for this review. One strong, emotional, deep, disturbing but beautiful chapter in the whole otherwise kind of boring book.
I think this book would be better received by people lucky enough to only have a passing experience with mental illness. It may be considered more shocking and impactful to them. To those of us with more experience, at least speaking for myself, it was honestly too tame.
The reality of mental illness can be incredibly heartbreaking, despondent, and even terrifying. This book barely scratches the surface. Especially considering that two of the characters were experiencing some of the extremes such as suicidal thoughts. But, of course, maybe that speaks volumes for itself. That the ones closest to those characters didn’t even see it.
Imagine Me Gone is a competently written novel. It’s technically sound. It just didn’t have the emotional punch that I had braced myself for.
3/5 prescription pills 💊💊💊
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Discussion Questions for Imagine Me Gone
- Did the portrayal of mental illness in the novel affect your reading experience? How did you connect those feelings to people you may know who suffer with mental illness?
- Did the narrative structure (multiple narrators and shifting perspectives) enhance the meaning of the novel? Did it increase your personal connection to the characters?
- What role does music play in Imagine Me Gone and how does in contribute to the themes of the book?
- Do the family dynamics in the novel ring true to you? Is their emotional struggle with depression realistic or romanticized?
- Which characters do you feel had the most satisfying resolution to their narrative?
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