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Imagine Me Gone

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From a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, a ferociously intimate story of a family facing the ultimate question: how far will we go to save the people we love the most?

When Margaret's fiancée, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him.

Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings -- the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec -- struggle along with their mother to care for Michael's increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

Told in alternating points of view by all five members of the family, this searing, gut-wrenching, and yet frequently hilarious novel brings alive with remarkable depth and poignancy the love of a mother for her children, the often inescapable devotion siblings feel toward one another, and the legacy of a father's pain in the life of a family.

With his striking emotional precision and lively, inventive language, Adam Haslett has given us something rare: a novel with the power to change how we see the most important people in our lives.

369 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 3, 2016

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Adam Haslett

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,313 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,423 reviews8,298 followers
June 25, 2016
4.5 stars

As someone who has dealt with mental illness in his family, I found Imagine Me Gone so honest and redemptive. Adam Haslett confronts the tough questions that come with loving someone in pain: how much do you try to save someone before you have to let them save themselves? How do you act with compassion when it feels like everyone needs more than you had to begin with? Where do you draw the line between wanting someone to live for your own sake instead of their own? These questions and more rang through my mind as I finished this book, along with gratitude that Haslett crafted such a somber, moving story of a damaged family forever in the process of healing.

Approach this book if you can stomach sadness; avoid it if you search only for happiness in your stories. Haslett's novel follows a five-member family that begins with Margaret and John, who marry each other in 1960s London even after Margaret learns of John's secret, devastating depression. The rest of the book unfolds in decades and includes the perspectives of their children: troubled and frenetic Michael, who obsesses over music and racial justice, resolute middle-child Celia, who serves as the rational backbone of the family, and attention-seeking Alec, whose flair for drama hides a love that Margaret deems the most simple and unquestioning of the three. The family struggles and at times succeeds in caring for one another over many years, and they intensify their efforts to support Michael as his well-being deteriorates as more and more time passes.

The characters in Imagine Me Gone exemplify quiet resilience. Haslett imbues each member of the family with nuance and depth. They come most alive in their interactions with one another: how Celia listens to Michael's fanatic rambles, how Margaret pays for his bills without question, how Alec attaches himself to all their problems and cannot let go. Each family member tests how deep and how far they can extend themselves for one another. Sometimes they fail, which makes them the most human of all.

I loved Haslett's careful, genuine approach to addressing mental health and illness in this book. He avoids glamorizing any of the characters' pain and renders them three-dimensional, giving them interests and quirks alongside their battles. He tackles the complexities of mental illness from multiple angles: Michael's fraught and damaging dependency on medication, Celia's profession as a therapist, and the family's shared trauma surrounding John's depression. Imagine Me Gone raises important questions about mental illness as the topic gains more attention in public discourse. As any good therapist would treat their clients, Haslett puts his characters first, and his compassion for them shines even when the novel itself feels shrouded in darkness.

Overall, a sad book with remarkable insight and prose. Though at first I had mixed feelings about Haslett's detached narrative, I grew to appreciate his writing style. As a gay younger brother myself, I resonated the most with Alec, though all of these characters stole my heart in some way. Imagine Me Gone serves as my favorite novel of 2016 thus far and the closest one to receiving five stars since I finished Hanya Yanagihara's masterpiece A Little Life . Check Haslett's novel out if you want a poignant, thought-provoking mood dampener.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,690 reviews14.1k followers
May 20, 2016
Anyone one who has any type of mental illness, or who has a family member or friend who has struggled with one knows how pervasive it is. All consuming, bigger than life itself, so it is not surprising that this book is very difficult to read, disturbing and heartbreaking. Yet, the author does a wonderful job explaining not only the inner life of the sufferer but giving voice to all family members. He treats his characters, with insight, respect and compassion.

Michaels story is the most impactful in this novel, his story like the illness itself is large, larger than the other family members who tell their stories. This family though, has suffered plenty already and it is amazing how they all care for each other, try to take care of each other. Protect their mother and try continuously to help their brother. We get a pretty clear picture of Michael's illness, his obsessiveness, through his musings, his outlandish stories but the author also tries to show Michael as a person separate from his illness, his interest in music and his record collection, black history and reparations. Although everything he does is carried to the extreme, anxiety ridden.

This is not a book for everyone. It is plenty sad but it does show family unity, family and friends caring for each other, tying their best to get on with their own lives while still being there for the person, brother, son who needs them the most.

ARC from publisher.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,910 reviews35.3k followers
April 20, 2016
Update: 4/20/16 I wrote this review yesterday. I'm still thinking about this family -and the challenges they lived with. After talking to a friend about a disturbing scene-- I have chosen to 'update' this review --to give a 'warning'.
I don't want to give spoilers --but I think its fair to say --that this book might not be the best choice if you are living with a loved one who is very depressed, or suffers with a mental illness.
That said....its an insightful book -well written-much compassion....with enjoyable -bright textured characters.
I suggest reading several reviews!

This was an engrossing look at the power of mental illness ---a deeply personal story about what happens when that power overwhelms a family of five.

Adam Haslett wrote a courageous novel allowing us to see what it's like to live with
a serious illness from different standpoints --the family: John, Margaret, Michael, Celia, and Alec.

What I found admirable, throughout this story, is blame was never a weapon ---however...through the storytelling ....( which feels so realistic), it's clear how messy and complicated it is in trying to help a person with this illness.

Very well written--( the multiple perspectives opens our eyes to what an entire family struggles with as a unit).

This is a compelling story revealing the human impact for those who suffer directly - and for those who love the sufferer.

It's not easy to make sense out of the chaos -- irrational rages -- fears --anxiety --
medications ( what works -- what doesn't ) -- depression -- denial -- feeling helpless --guilt -- shame --isolation --codependency -- feeling empty -- or manipulated --but Adam Haslett wrote a compassionate story...each of the characters warmheartedness -- and their rapport with each other cultivate an inspiring presence -- regardless to limits around bailing others out and or listening to periodic tirades.

For family members in distress....this novel is gut wrenching...yet there 'are' many moments of 'Goosie-Good-Feelings', too!

Thank You, Little Brown and Company, Netgalley, and Adam Haslett

Profile Image for Philip.
497 reviews666 followers
January 14, 2022
5ish stars.

What a quietly devastating book. It's written so naturally, just following the lives of its characters over decades without seeming like it's trying to make a statement or push an agenda. Haslett does not shy away from asking some tough questions and doesn't give easy answers. He brilliantly explores the themes of the novel for which mental illness is more of a catalyst than a direct focus.

Each of the characters in the five member family who the novel revolves around is as human as any fictionalized character I can think of. In a lot of ways, Haslett's character work reminds me of Anne Tyler's which is as big a compliment as I can think of. Like Tyler, Haslett's compassion for his characters shines through though he makes no attempt to glamorize or justify any of them.

Each of the characters lives their own lives, has their own ups and downs and while none of them is defined by mental illness, it is continuously affecting each of them in various ways. Though we're never even told their last name, I recognize each of them, if not necessarily in myself then in other people I know and associate with. And not because I am aware of anyone dealing with the same challenges as this family- but because they're humans just trying to make it through whatever challenges life throws their way.

If I were on the Pulitzer jury I'd have had no hesitation awarding it to this book. :)

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Julie .
3,997 reviews58.9k followers
October 15, 2016
Imagi e Me G ne by Adam Haslett is a 2016 Little, Brown and Company publication.

Once more I have chosen a book that is pretty far outside of my normal reading range, continuing on my quest to expand my reading habits a little.

I had NO idea what to expect, really, but this novel is truly remarkable in its unflinching portrait of a family coping with mental illness.

When Margaret marries John she is fully aware of his bouts with depression, these ‘episodes’ he has, but she is in love with him and marries him despite the adversity they will face in life.

From that point on, the family they have together will often face insurmountable challenges, hardships and incredible pain as they watch the ones they love suffer from a slippery malady that draws them further and further from the love and warmth they need, but can’t seem to digest, as they continue to slide into a dark abyss.

First of all, this story is not a sugar coated, watered down for public consumption type of novel. It is realistic and stark, and because of the subject matter, it is heavy with little or no respite.

However, the characters are rich, well drawn, and I did care very much what happened to this family. I hoped with them, suffered with them, and cried with them, and you will too. Watching them work so hard to keep their heads above water, but seeing them flail about, drowning as the tide pulls them under, is difficult to watch. But, would I do anything differently? I don’t know. How far do you go for someone you love? Where do you become resigned to their fate? How do manage to let go?

“For the first time I saw him now as a man, not a member of a family. A separate person, who had been trying as hard as he could for most of his life simply to get by.”

While very thought provoking, raw, and emotional, this book is pretty sad and if you are not one who handles that kind of outcome, this is not the book for you.

I admit this is certainly not the type of book I would want to read too often, and I usually do steer away for anything that suggests a less than rosy outcome, but I am glad to see someone write such an honest and bold depiction of mental illness, one that will stick with you for a long time to come. I came away with much more insight about those who struggle with this disease and for the families and love ones who suffer through that journey along with them.

3.5 rounded to 4

Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,393 reviews800 followers
September 17, 2022
‘Something’s happened’ I said, aloud, for the first time.’“It’s my brother.’

This should be a terribly depressing book, but it seems to be written with such affection for the characters who all loved each other, that I cared about them and the places they went. Lots of walks, seeing scenery that included mushrooms, “those extraordinary zigzags of brown crescents wending their way up the bark of the older trees like staircases for the Lilliputians.”

We’re introduced to two generations of a family dealing with anxiety and depression (“the monster”, as the father calls it:) “the monster has its funnel driven into the back of your head and is sucking the light coming through your eyes straight out of you into the mouth of oblivion.”

This is a close-knit family, but not so closely knit that everything always holds together. Bits unravel here and there as individuals try to break free of the demands of caring for the people they love but who wear them out. They each have their own ways of antagonising the others . . . but also of caring deeply and looking after them.

Each chapter is told by one member: John and Margaret, the parents of Michael, Celia and Alec.

Margaret is a young American working in England and dating the very British John. They plan to marry, but then “John’s clock began to run more slowly.” He winds down and refrains from his usual animated discussions about current affairs. While she’s away visiting her parents in the States, John ends up in hospital, apparently not for the first time. John’s father simply tells her, “We were rather hoping all this business was done with. His mother finds it most unpleasant.”

There is a point later in the book where John has come home from work and she knows he’s worried.

“He needs to be asked. He won’t talk about it of his own accord. He imagines that if he can contain it inside himself its resolution will be contained as well. That everything will work out—his upbringing distilled into a superstition.”

And that says it all about his background. Don’t talk about it, and maybe it will go away.

But it doesn’t. It comes and goes, Margaret’s exhausted with three kids and also because John’s exhausted, since that’s what depression does. Michael is particularly trying.

He’s an articulate, difficult young teen (probably “on the spectrum” we might say today), who talks about and collects music. Insightful and bright beyond his years, he is also extremely needy. Actually they are all needy, but Michael’s seems to be a more in-your-face I-NEED-YOU-NOW-OR-ELSE kind of needy.

When they take a cruise ship back to England, Michael writes a detailed diary of the voyage, where all the passengers were greased up, chained in irons and sold as slaves at ports along the way. This fantasy introduces both his imagination and his obsessive theory that there is a universal black memory of the slave trade that haunts and affects today’s black society and music. A permanent, genetic haunting that nobody’s acknowledging except him.

He also becomes obsessed with black people and certain kinds of music, and I admit I became as exasperated with all these esoteric (to me) musical references as almost everyone in his life is. As an adult, he makes mix tapes, is a DJ, writes music reviews, but smothers the people he loves and fixates on. He catalogues his various medications, but when he’s down, he relies on his family and exes to talk him through it for hours.

Each member of the family is a strong character, and I was taken with the fact that all the voices are quite different. I don’t recall ever trying to remember whose story I was reading. We might think we know what WE would do in their circumstances, but when we see Celia, for example, as an adult in San Francisco talking on the phone to one of the others, we watching her slip back into family mode, as most of us do. Perfectly done.

And as John says about his daughter “I’m momentarily astonished at her existence—this child of mine. How narrowly we all avoid never having been. . . as though, if I am not careful between here and the parking lot, I might go astray and she will be canceled, stolen back by not-being, like a thief grabbing her through an open window.”

John used to play “Imagine Me Gone” with his kids – get them out in a boat, stop the engine, and pretend to nap, telling them they had to figure out how to get them all home. Suddenly he is imagining - What if?

Michael is the most annoying character, but he is also so smart and sardonic and funny in his way, and the others have such strong stories of their own, that it’s a very satisfying book.

I really loved it. Many thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown, and Company for a copy to review. All quotations are from the review copy and subject to change.
Profile Image for Carol.
824 reviews479 followers
August 9, 2016
The Hook Many fine reviews from my GR friends, I saw this book everywhere. When it was on sale in e-book format I jumped at the opportunity to join the fans.

The Line Interestingly I did not highlight one word in this book.

The Sinker – More was promised than delivered. This is a difficult statement for me to make about a book that has garnered such high praise. I liked it. I didn’t love it. Though well written, Imagi*e Me Go*e left me with little emotional impact. Depression and mental illness are hard subjects to explore. Haslett captures the helplessness of a family to deal with the mental swings of a loved one. Perhaps this one hits too close to home so that decisions made in portrayal of characters and their outcome seem off. Perhaps I didn’t care enough to try to save anyone. Perhaps that was the point. A loved one who is mentally ill consumes a great deal of energy and I just didn’t have it for this book.
Profile Image for Caroline .
409 reviews558 followers
February 4, 2019

(Full disclosure: book abandoned at page 57 [out of 357 pages].)

This book starts with a contemplative tone but is quickly plagued by pages of dragging exposition. Haslett structured his narrative from different viewpoints, with each chapter narrated by a different character from a single family. The focus in the early pages is mostly on the father, John, a reserved man who’s struggled with mental illness but seems to be managing well at this point.

Characters are mildly interesting, and Haslett gave them distinct voices. He did include dialogue to break up the large blocks of exposition and add some verve to the story, but it can be annoying to read, as it’s not set off from the paragraphs, nor is it contained within quotation marks. It’s also on the sparse side.

In some ways the story in these first 57 pages is too ruminative; the opening lacks punch to hook the reader and therefore requires patience. There’s a strong melancholy feel to all of it, a passivity that Haslett probably felt made sense given the premise but can be a real slog after a short while.

Final verdict: A story about a man with depression that starts off depressingly. Skip it.

NOTE: I received this as an Advance Reader Copy from Goodreads in May 2016.
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews322 followers
April 12, 2017
5 stars

I guess I'm going to have to adjust my "Best Novels of 2016" list...

What kills me is I had Adam Haslett's Imagine Me Gone on my e-book queue for well over six months. Even after the announcement of its inclusion on the National Book Award shortlist, even after reading slobbery reviews of it (particularly the one in the NY Times), even after my trusted friend Julie gave Haslett's short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here a glowing 5-star review here on Goodreads, I steadfastly kept ignoring its presence on my queue until the Pulitzer Prizes were announced two days ago, when I learned this had lost out to the terrific The Underground Railroad for the coveted honor. Curiosity won out over my aversion to dip into (what every review I've read has highlighted, sometimes pejoratively) a novel about mental health disorders and their effect on the family unit.

What a bonehead move it was to delay reading this. I was completely blown away with Haslett's spin on the overly familiar "Familial Dysfunction" genre.

It wasn't 'love at first read', though. It took me a while to really immerse myself into the travails of this family-of-five, as related in a revolving first person p.o.v. It becomes immediately apparent that something is amiss with the brood of John and Margaret, intimating something dire is about to unfold (in the present) but Haslett's going to take his sweet time dissecting (via life-long flashback) every little element of the mess intimated at the start. What starts as perfunctory turns painstakingly detailed as the siblings (the loquacious fabulist elder Michael, his younger sibs Celia and Alec), then Mom and Dad, give us pertinent clues that there's something awful brewing in this family's core. Once you think you might have a handle on the root cause, Haslett throws a subtle curveball to alter your perception ever so slightly. Yeah, most assuredly, Dad's going through some major depression issues, which inevitably affect the overall dynamic, but why? And what the hell is up with Michael? Who seems perpetually to be in la-la land, from adolescence through middle-age?? Who is stuck in a soundtrack loop of disco/house/trip-hop/acid electronica/thrash and whose thought patterns and convo are bizarrely in stasis mode obsessing over slavery and reparations White America owes blacks??

The initial slow burn smolders to a crackling inferno by book's end, with every character either being a sympathetic figure, or at very least relatable. The exhaustive exposition evidenced at the start, we end up realizing, is not wasted blah-blah. You end up figuring out early what's going to happen, but it's the whys that will (if you're anything like me and can see yourself in these finely-drawn characters) end up rattling you to the core and render you blubbering by book's end.

Yeah, this is a sad tomato of a novel. but its realism, candor and accessibility makes it a must read, and one (I'm happy to say) that deserves its kudos. I loved this.
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
350 reviews395 followers
August 25, 2016
I've put off writing this review for far too long, because I just don't know what to say. It did draw me in at the beginning, but then kept me at a distance from the characters.

In the story, a fathers mental illness is passed to one of the sons, and is told through his eyes. While this gave me an inside look at the thoughts and actions of one with such an illness, it also distanced me from the deeper emotions of the family. I was left with a feeling of this is what happened. For me, I really missed not having a more personal connection to the story.

I did absolutely love Haslett's writing though. Very sophisticated, yet not overly so. I got to look up many words that I was only somewhat familiar with. (Thank you Kindle.) While this book may have not hit the spot for me, I will be checking out his others.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,481 reviews29.4k followers
April 20, 2016
How much are we willing to sacrifice to help those we love? Are we willing to put aside our own happiness for a fleeting chance at saving another?

When Margaret learns that her fiancée John has been hospitalized for depression, it throws her completely. This is 1960s London and she is a transplanted American, in love with John's professional and public steadfastness and his emotional vulnerability when the two are alone. She knows she must make a choice: should she support John through his time of need and marry him despite not knowing whether his illness will return (as it has in the past), or should she try and find a way out, follow a steadier and more certain path?

Her decision to put her faith in John and their love seems like the right one at first. The couple raises three children, but Margaret realizes she needs to be the realistic one, the disciplinarian, while John's more mercurial moods endear him to their children. It's not long before it becomes clear that their eldest son, Michael, intense, passionate, and fiercely intelligent, is plagued by many of the same demons his father is. This manifests itself into borderline obsessive emotional attachments with women, and the same type of obsessive belief in certain social causes.

As Michael struggles with adulthood, love, employment, and simply surviving on a daily basis, it falls to Margaret and her two other children, Celia and Alec, to care for him, to endure his mood swings and his anxieties, and protect both Michael and their mother from the challenges of a life plagued by mental illness and anguish. But to do so, Celia and Alec must put their own relationships and careers at risk, which becomes a more difficult choice when having to do it time and time again.

As you'd expect from a book about a family's struggles with mental illness, Imagine Me Gone is moving and poignant. Adam Haslett, whose previous books ( You Are Not a Stranger Here and Union Atlantic ) dazzled me, is a tremendously talented writer, and he has created vivid, complex characters, none more so than Michael. My challenge with this book, however, is that in telling the book from each character's perspective, Haslett chooses to tell Michael's story through his delusions, fantasies, obsessions, and paranoia. It makes the book, particularly his chapters, difficult to read and understand, and while they give insight into Michael's mind, they don't advance the story in any way.

This is a well-told story of a family barely holding themselves together. But while the story is an emotional one, I had trouble connecting with it in many places. It almost seemed that Michael's psychological issues, told in vivid color, dulled everyone else's stories alongside his. But Haslett's writing is still something to behold.

NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,254 reviews49 followers
June 4, 2017
On the surface, this might appear to be just another story of a middle-class American family, but this book has a lot more to recommend it than that. The core of the story is about the effects of mental illnesses and the drugs that are used to treat them. There are also a lot of musical and literary reference points, and a lot of humour.

The book opens at a crisis point involving two brothers staying in a remote cabin on the Maine coast, whose context becomes clear towards the end of the book. The rest of the book is told chronologically over a period of over 25 years. Each chapter is told by a first person narrator (in my edition these were all named in the chapter headings, but I have heard that in others some of the chapters including the opening one were not), and different members of the family add context and variety.

There are five main characters, the parents John and Margaret and their children Michael, Celia and Alec. John is British, and has a good job as a venture capitalist, but suffers occasional episodes of debilitating mental illness. In a key chapter of this section that prefigures later events, John takes the two younger children out on a boat, and challenges them to imagine that he is dead and they have to fend for themselves. The first part of the book is largely about the effect of this on each of the children .

The central figure in the rest of the story is Michael, who is haunted by his father and wants to protect the family, but has mental issues of his own and becomes dependent on prescription drugs which eventually make it impossible for him to lead a normal life. Much of the humour on the book comes from his writing, for example a series of letters he writes on the family's transatlantic sea voyage which gradually become a bizarre fantasy, and allows Haslett to explore his other obsessions: music, literature and the history of black America. Another major subplot is the story of Alec, the youngest child, and his struggles to reconcile the family and his gay lifestyle.

For me, the first and last sections were brilliant and moving, but the narrative lost momentum in the middle and was too long. Given the nature of the core story, it was always going to be impossible to give each of the characters equal weight, but Margaret seems to exist largely as a focal point for the family's suffering, and Celia also seems less fully realised. Definitely worth reading, so thanks to the 21st Century Literature group, who chose it as one of this month's group reads.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,328 followers
April 23, 2016
As much as Imagine Me Gone is about the ravages of mental illness, it's also about the deep love between parents and children, and between siblings. Which made for a very sad book, but also a deeply moving reading experience -- especially the end. There is no great suspense to this book, but it's best for me not to reveal too much and for readers to experience the story as it unfolds. In very broad strokes, Margaret marries John in the 1960s knowing that John suffers from bouts of profound depression. They have three children. Michael -- the oldest -- is also afflicted by some unspecified mental illness. The story spans forty years, told from the alternating points of view of all five family members. The bonds between these family members are infused with feelings of guilt, responsibility, denial, generosity, and an underlying profound unquestioned love. The end is almost unbearable, but perfectly crafted. This is my first time reading a book by Adam Haslett. His writing is excellent, and he is crazily insightful. Given the subject matter, this is not a book for everyone but I do highly recommend it to anyone who can stomach a lot of sadness. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,307 reviews659 followers
August 24, 2016
“Imagine Me Gone” will be on many “Best of 2016” book lists. This amazing read illustrates how mental illness is exhausting, time consuming, and financially devistatiing for the friends and families of those sufferers. Mental illness affects not just the ones who have the illness; mental illness affects the sufferer’s loved ones as well. Although the subject matter is depressing, author Adam Haslett adds laugh-out-loud humor to balance the read, to make it more readable.

The novel begins at the end: Michael, the eldest of Margaret and John’s children has died while staying at a vacation home in Maine. His younger brother, Alec, was with him.

Haslett goes from there to the beginning. Told from Margaret’s (the mother) point of view, Margaret tells of her introduction to John (father). A few months before their wedding, Margaret discovers that John suffers from bouts of severe depression with the severity so bad that it necessitates hospitalization. This part of the story takes place in the mid 1960’s, and both the doctors and parents aren’t as forthcoming about the illness as they could have been. Margaret blindly goes into marriage with John and has three children with him. The reader learns from Margaret the difficulty living and parenting with an unstable person.

Michael, the oldest of the children provides the most entertainment in the novel. His mind is fast and it’s always churning. He’s imaginative and clever, and he has an anxiety disorder. Half of his chapters are hilarious. The other half showcases the agonizing and paralyzing thoughts of his unquiet mind.

John’s(the father) chapters are sad. He understands his flaws and the heartache it brings to his family. He is aware; he just can’t do anything about it. The reader sees how he is immobilized by his disability.

Haslett is astounding in using Michael and John to illuminate to the reader the horrific inner worlds of mental illness. Haslett is no stranger to these illnesses. In an NPR interview he revealed that his father killed himself when Haslett was 14 and his brother suffered from an anxiety disorder. Haslett used his life experiences to bring reality to this novel.

The voices of the siblings, Alec and Celia allow the reader to understand how siblings and children of the afflicted are in constant worry and frustration. Mental illness is soul-sucking and distracting. Growing up is difficult under the best family situation; this adds another layer of family dysfunction.

For me, one of the most illuminating pieces of this novel is the pharmaceutical issue. Mental illness is fluid; it’s difficult to gauge the ebb and flow, thus thereby difficult prescribing the correct type of meds in the correct doses. The body builds tolerances to some meds, which requires upping the doses. Additionally, the side effects of some of the meds out-weigh some of the benefits.

This is a novel that is brilliant on so many levels: it gives light to mental illness; it gives voices to those affected; it enlightens those who know individuals and families suffering; it questions proper treatment of those afflicted. And finally, it’s a fabulous read. This read is beautiful and insightful. It’s at times heart-wrenchingly devastating. At other times it’s witty and fun. It’s a slice of life. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,007 reviews354 followers
October 28, 2019
O Jogo da Balança

Quantas vezes somos confrontados com aquelas situações X versus Y, em que há uma balança imaginária onde pesamos X e Y em pratos opostos?!

Pois é isso que esta estória nos trás:
Um confronto entre Amor e Depressão, abordado com grande complexidade e realismo.

A narrativa tem uma passada lenta, mas o seu tema cativante emerge, captando o nosso interesse.

Numa pesagem 'ritmo lento' versus 'tema cativante', o segundo arrebata a palma ;)

Aguentem o primeiro terço sem desistir, pois verão a vossa resistência recompensada!
Não são raras as vezes em que o ato de desfrutar pressupõe algum esforço investido ;)
Profile Image for Nikoleta.
671 reviews270 followers
August 9, 2017
Στο μυθιστόρημα Κι αν εγώ χαθώ παρακολουθούμε μια φυσιολογική οικογένεια, μια οικογένεια αγαπημένη, ευγενική, τυπική, με ένα σκύλο… είναι στην πραγματικότητα όμως όλα τέλεια;
Ο Haslett επιλέγει την πολυπρόσωπη αφήγηση, από την οπτική γωνία όλων των ηρώων της οικογένειας και μας βυθίζει στον εσωτερικό κόσμο του κάθε μέλους για να μας διηγηθεί την ιστορία της.
Η οικογένεια που αποτελείται από τον Τζον, τη Μάργκαρετ και τα τέκνα τους Άλεκ, Σίλια και Μάικλ, δεν είναι φυσιολογική.
Στο μυθιστόρημα αυτό, δύο μέλη της οικογένειας περπατούν σε τεντωμένο σκοινί. Ο πατέρας δεν μπορεί να νιώσει αρκετά παρά μόνο κενότητα, ενώ ο γιός του νιώθει υπερβολικά πολλά…
Στην μέση βρίσκονται η μητέρα Μάργκαρετ και τα παιδιά Σίλια και Άλεκ που προσπαθούν να ισορροπήσουν τις δικές τους ανάγκες με των ανθρώπων που αγαπούν.
Η υπόθεση ακούγεται μελαγχολική, μπορεί να προκαλεί έως και δυσφορία, όμως όχι.
Η πολυφωνία της αφήγησης α��τό το υπέροχο σύμπλεγμα εσωτερικών αφηγήσεων βοηθάει την διήγηση να γίνεται ανάλαφρη. Βιώνουμε την δυσλειτουργία των ηρώων χωρίς να μας μεταφέρεται εξίσου το βάρος των καταστάσεων. Διότι η κάθε φωνή, ο κάθε ήρωας είναι ξεχωριστός. Άλλος αστεία σαρκαστικός, άλλος ρομαντικός, άλλος αφηρημένος και ξέγνοιαστος. Ο καθένας με το δικό του ύφος και λεξιλόγιο.
Το ωραιότερο όμως είναι ότι οι αδυναμίες τους δεν είναι ενοχλητικές για τον αναγνώστη. Μαθαίνουμε τα ελαττώματα τους, διαβάζουμε τα πάντα με συμπάθεια, κατανόηση και ίσως με αγάπη. Διότι ο ίδιος ο συγγραφέας αγαπά τους ήρωες του. Και αυτό μας το μεταφέρει με κάθε μέσο.
Η αφήγηση έχει χιούμορ – θα αργήσετε να ξεπεράσετε την αφήγηση του Μάικλ κατά την διάρκεια της κρουαζιέρας, πιστέψτε με- και τρυφερότητα.
Ως αναγνώστρια αυτό που εκτίμησα ιδιαίτερα είναι ότι όταν διαβάζω ένα καλογραμμένο βιβλίο, ανακαλύπτω με μία μικρή ενόχληση ένα στήσιμο, μια προσπάθεια του συγγραφέα να βρει όμορφες λέξεις και βαθιά νοήματα και έπειτα να τα κολλήσει με το τσιγκέλι στην ιστορία που διηγείται. Στο βιβλίο του Haslett αντιθέτως, η διήγηση κυλάει τόσο φυσιολογικά, όσο απλή είναι μια αυθόρμητη σκέψη. Το να τις παρουσιάσει με τόση φυσική ευκολία θέλει μεγάλο ταλέντο.
Το Κι αν εγώ χαθώ είναι ένα πολύ πολύ όμορφο και συγκινητικό βιβλίο. Μου μετέφερε εικόνες, σκέψεις και συναισθήματα στο μέγιστο βαθμό, ακόμη και τις δύσκολες στιγμές της οικογένειας τις θυμάμαι με τρυφερότητα.
Profile Image for Kate.
559 reviews76 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 9, 2016
I didn't finish this book, so I'm not going to give it a rating, but I really didn't like it.

At all.

It could be that I'm not smart enough for this novel. It could be I'm not dumb enough for it. It could be that I'm not sympathetic enough, or enlightened enough, or flexible enough, to enjoy this novel.

I don't know what the case is, but I got to 51% and I just couldn't take any more.

The characters are completely self-absorbed and one-note. The narrative is so convoluted I'm still not sure what was supposed to have "really" happened and what was all in their heads. The language is weird and not conducive to understanding. The breadth of the novel, the actual time-lapse span of it, is not engaging to me. The multiple points-of-view made it hard to connect with any of the characters, in and of itself.

In short, there is too much to explain, so let me sum up: I quit.

I'll leave this one to the lit snobs and erudites it was clearly written for.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
479 reviews584 followers
November 26, 2017
Why I am so drawn to sad stories? Of all the novels that I read, it is the ones full of tragedy that I remember - their sentences rattle around in my head for months and cause me to well up at the most random moments. Imagine Me Gone is one such book, a real heartbreaker.

At the beginning, we meet Alec, who has been staying at a Maine cabin with his older brother Michael. The details are still unclear, but it is obvious that something has gone wrong. We then flash back to when the pair were much younger. Michael is a sarcastic teenager obsessed with music, while Alec is a mischievous kid with a flair for the dramatic. Alternate chapters are told by each family member, including their sister Celia, and parents Margaret & John. Margaret remembers her courtship with John years earlier, and the crippling depression that took hold of him following their engagement. John is still hounded by the illness and fears that he may have passed it on to his children. We follow the siblings as they navigate their lives, growing apart yet still held together by that familial bond. Michael's increasing anxiety is an obstacle that must be faced, but also a challenge that unites them all.

The aspect of this story that I admired most was its powerful depiction of mental illness. In sensitive and tender prose, Adam Haslett describes how such a disease can dominate a life. It's so hard to keep going, John explains, when the "monster" of depression "has its funnel driven into the back of your head and is sucking the light coming through your eyes straight out of you into the mouth of oblivion." He has sadly come to accept that this is a condition that can never be cured:
"There is no getting better. There is love I cannot bear, which has kept me from drifting entirely loose. There are the medicines I can take that flood my mind without discrimination, slowing the monster, moving the struggle underwater, where I then must live in the murk. But there is no killing the beast. Since I was a young man, it has hunted me. And it will hunt me until I am dead. The older I become, the closer it gets."

Michael sums up his acute anxiety as "the relentless need to escape a moment that never ends." His mind is constantly racing: "my thoughts moved too quickly to compete, severed by a perpetual vigilance." At one point he is prescribed Klonopin and is overcome by the relief that it brings:
"For that hour and the three or four that followed, I was lifted down off a hook in the back of my skull that I hadn’t even known I’d been hanging from. Here was the world unfettered by dread. Thoughts came, lasted for whole, uninterrupted moments, and then passed away, leaving room for others. The present had somehow ceased to be an emergency. In fact, it seemed almost uneventful."

It's not all sadness and dread. There is humour, especially in Michael's farcical letters to his aunt, and his irreverent answers to a loan deferral form. Most of all, there is love, as we learn that despite their differences, this is a family that will do anything for one another. Imagine Me Gone is an incredibly moving and compassionate story, from an extremely talented writer.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,547 reviews2,535 followers
June 1, 2016
Mental illness plagues two generations of an Anglo-American family in Haslett’s moving second novel. Narration duties are split between the five members: father John, mother Margaret, and siblings Alec, Michael, and Celia. By giving each main character a first-person voice, Haslett offers readers a full picture of how mental illness takes a toll not only on sufferers but also on those who love and care for them. John’s descriptions of what mental illness is like are among the most striking passages in the book. Michael’s sections are wonderfully humorous, a nice counterbalance to some of the aching sadness. The multiple points of view fit together beautifully in this four-decade family symphony, although I sometimes felt that Celia was one main character too many – her story doesn’t contribute very much to the whole. A powerful read for fans of family stories.

Non-subscribers can read an excerpt of my review at BookBrowse.
Profile Image for Terri.
267 reviews
February 25, 2017
Adam Haslett has written a powerful book that stayed with me days...even after I finished reading it. Beautifully crafted, he tells the story of a family torn apart by mental illness. The choices the family makes have heart-breaking consequences. The descriptions of the main character's mental illness is vividly described and I found myself choking up from the anguish of his protagonist. I simply could not put the book down and I can't wait to read his next novel. Recommend to book clubs because my book club had a very passionate debate about this novel.
Profile Image for Auguste.
61 reviews167 followers
February 25, 2017
Having had the privilege of translating Haslett's book into Greek, I'd begin by saying that it is emphatically not an easy read. And not because of the seemingly obvious reason of its subject, but rather for the opposite: the fact that mental illness and suicide are not straightforward calamities, evolving (or devolving) in the rational, causal manner one unfamiliar with suffering of them might imagine.

Mental illness is a tangle of thorns within a tangle of thorns: a complex, burdensome life within the life we're given (without being asked whether we want it or not, or whether we can handle the added, lifelong burden that is mortality), it's a family of one within the family of many, the distorted reflection of a reflection - hence a situation seeming to spread ad infinitum, swallowing up everything in its course.

Haslett has written a subtle, quietly harrowing book, a polyphonic masterpiece that defies narrative norms and the usual treatment of thorny issues, and instead delves into the abovementioned chaos fearlessly, indulging its quintessential clamor and discontent. He treats suicide (especially that of a parent) as the perennial landmine it is, maiming and dismembering the survivors till there seems to be nothing left of them at all, other than the grim privilege of belonging to this private group of lifelong trauma. At the same time, he treats the lighter aspects of his characters' lives with the same uncanny precision and wisdom, like a sufferer familiar both with pain and the deliverance from it, the happiness of not having to struggle through each day in a state of constant torment.

This book at times hollows you out, it destroys you. But it's a wonder of the book nonetheless, one whose brilliance stays with you.

(Working on Imagine Me Gone, I couldn't help thinking of its author, and saying to myself "Man, if this is what life has been for you, I hope it got better, cause you sure deserve it, as do we all".)
Profile Image for Lolly K Dandeneau.
1,835 reviews230 followers
April 22, 2016
"The beast is a projector too, every day throwing up before me pictures of what I'm incapable of."

This novel made me catch my breath. Every reader experiences a story differently, especially when the fiction is close to realities they have lived or witnessed. Anyone having dealt with mental health issues will feel a deeper pain for the characters- every single one of them. Every person in the novel has a pain that is rightfully their own. Such pain doesn't require permission, it is like another family member. It all begins with a choice Margaret makes to marry John knowing that something is wrong with him. When the children come along Margaret has to deal with a balance that seems to weigh far more heavily on her side and there are signs their son Michael is different though brilliant. It isn't long before things crumble. As the children grow up, they both love their father and resent his illness. The struggle between the shame and guilt they feel is written beautifully. "I can see in his eyes how hard he's trying not to pity me. This is what I do to them. Over and over." My heart broke so much, and I am reminded of how little we really do to help those who have mental disabilities. It isn't a feel good novel where some cure or solution appears and suddenly everyone is happy and functional. This is a raw look at one family moving forward and coping the best they can, trying their hardest to support their husband, son, brother. But this story took a big bite out of my heart. It's a brave fight for anyone dealing with mental illness themselves or their loved ones. It is depressing and it doesn't have to be this way- this is a tragic tale. There are people that are finding great treatment and support, and those who aren't should be and deserve it. But this story is heavy and isn't positive, but some stories do end in tragedy.
If anything, I think this sheds light on just how much families need support as much as the person suffering through their illness (mental or otherwise). We all need someone to lean on, we can't always just be a rock. There is still a big stigma on mental illness regardless of what people lead you to believe. Much of the ignorance is fear based , and there is so much more that needs to be done because everyone deserves a fruitful life. We really should explore the human mind more.
A very painful story but the insight is gorgeous. Michael humored me through his musings. Read it with caution because it will make you sad. (feel free to visit my blog bookstalkerblog.com )
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,007 reviews354 followers
November 4, 2019
The Weighting Game

We all know that the moment we say "I love you" to someone, that sentence will be fatally tested!

Therefore... when Margaret knew about John's ( her fiancé ) depression, she had to weight her love for him, against his mental illness.
Love was a winner, which led to marriage and a family.
But Michael (their eldest son) inherited his father's mental issues, and the fact made quite an impact in all family members, which meant hey all had to proceed with the weighting game!...
How would Michael's younger siblings react?
Would they exclusevely concern about their own lives, whilst leaving Michael suffering behind?!
Or would they care for him, handing him a compassionate help in his harder moments?!...
And what about Margaret and John?
Would they put him away in a mental instituition, or would they always be around for him?!...

Which one will win the weighting game?
Love or Mental Illness?!
Make your bets!...

My bet is that they should find a balance between running their own lives and helping the troubled Michael.
It seems to be the receipe for every problem on Earth — BALANCE 😉
I'm not saying it's gonna happen — it's just my guess to make things right! 👍

All in all, I found this book extremely useful.
In life, we are always facing X versus Y situations, and this book provides a remarquable insight into one of them!...

Food for thought!!!
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,109 reviews8,028 followers
March 28, 2020
Adam Haslett puts words to depression unlike any other author. He manages to capture the heaviness of family life in the same way he uplifts the beauty of that community. This book represents the communion between characters just as much as it cares to commune with the reader. I felt so deeply for Michael and Alec and Celia and Margaret; it is just as much, if not even moreso, their story as it is John's, despite his absence for most of the book. Life is messy and often unresolved but we trudge through it and are stronger together than alone—that might be a common token in novel form but nonetheless a powerful reminder that this story emanated so well.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,416 reviews534 followers
April 10, 2019
[4+] Imagine Me Gone, about the toll of mental illness on a family, crept up on me gradually. I probably would have abandoned it after a few dozen pages if not for Haslett's wonderful writing. Page by page, I become more involved with each family member until they all felt like family to me. This is a heartbreaking and loving novel.
Profile Image for Antigone.
493 reviews730 followers
June 17, 2021
John. Margaret. Michael. Celia. Alec. This is our family of five, amidst which a gene has been passed. Each is given a voice to express his or her perspective on the struggle of living with severe anxiety and depression - whether as one who suffers, or one who has been given no choice but to strive to create a functional existence amid the fallout. This is, many days, an impossible task. Even in imagination.

What do you fear when you fear everything? Time passing and not passing. Death and life. I could say my lungs never filled with enough air, no matter how many puffs of my inhaler I took. Or that my thoughts moved too quickly to complete, severed by a perpetual vigilance. But even to say this would abet the lie that terror can be described, when anyone who's ever known it knows that it has no components but is instead everywhere inside you all the time, until you can recognize yourself only by the tensions that string one minute to the next. And yet I keep lying, by describing, because how else can I avoid this second, and the one after it? This being the condition itself: the relentless need to escape a moment that never ends.

Haslett teases those tensions out over years of family life, his story balanced precariously on the hope for change, and the dread of it, and the grief of a peace that never comes. The work is well-written and engaging...however, I found the choices made by Alec at the closing of the novel to be extremely naive, especially for one who has lived cheek-by-jowl with this illness all his days. It might have been interesting if the result turned out to be his unconscious aim - but the author gave no room to suspect it, and so I was left to puzzle. And sigh a little bit.

Profile Image for Lee Klein .
793 reviews837 followers
July 6, 2016
I received a copy via a Goodreads giveaway and I knew the author a bit when we both lived in Iowa City ten or eleven years ago. The fractured structure reflects the fractured family and the difficulties communicating and helping each other heal after a serious spoiler alert. The writing, particularly early on, is so solid, and it morphs to reflect each narrator, although maybe "narration" suggests description of external events instead of interiority? Multiple perspectives can be challenging since they often feel like fiction, that is, you can sense the hand of the author structuring everything, raising a bar for readers that can only be overcome by topnotch prose, suggestion or statement of serious themes, and living/breathing characters. In this, if the characters attain 3D humanity for you, this novel will tear you up. If not, it's difficult to read a fabrication intended to rip you up? The end you can see coming like a wave disturbing the horizon line, destined to crush you no matter where you swim. Recommended reading for those interested in contracting a case of summer blues after exposure to serious lit.
Profile Image for Lisa.
104 reviews23 followers
May 11, 2018
I could NOT put this book down! I laughed , I cried, I sobbed. . . This story, these characters will stay with me for a very long time.

I felt Celia’s portrayal of a social worker was spot on, and I personally learned so much from her. I learned so much from this family!

This book is nothing short of brilliant. . . I LOVED it !!!!❤️
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,007 reviews354 followers
October 28, 2019
Depression Sucks

This book starts slowly but as the story unfolds, it gains interest.

That quote from Tolstoi -- "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own special way" ( I added the "special" for a lil extra flavor 😉 ) popped in my mind, while reading it!
It's not new to watch depression in a family, as a dreadful source of unhappiness ☹️
But "every cloud has a silver lining" (it seems I'm in a quoting kind of mood...), and... on the plus side... it's bound to increase the love bondings between family members... 👍

Well... What else can I say?!
Not much!...
Depression sucks, but not this book!
Please read it -- it's amazingly real !!!
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