Rameau’s review archive: He’s Gone by Deb Caletti


“What do you think happened to your husband, Mrs. Keller?”

The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.

As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.

He's GoneHe’s Gone by Deb Caletti

This review can also be found on Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell-blog.

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. (view spoiler)

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.

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

This entry was posted in ARC, book review, contemporary, meh, read in 2013 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rameau’s review archive: He’s Gone by Deb Caletti

  1. Some books work for you, some don’t. 🙂

Comments are closed.