Our family provides more than an environment in which we may either thrive or wither. We are made from the bits and pieces of our parents. Good will and a good upbringing go only so far in the presence of an unlucky genetic inheritance. Margaret meets John in London in the 1960’s, falls in love, and becomes engaged to him; all before he’s hospitalized with depression. They decide to marry; love, family and story follow.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett offers a vision of the family as captured by love and genetics. Haslett wisely keeps all the genetics under the hood. Instead, the family is in the forefront, and the novel unfolds in a chorus of their voices across the decades. John and Margaret have three children; their oldest, Michael, his sister Celia and his brother, Alec. As the parents age, as the children grow up, their stories entwine and offer a constantly shifting parallax view. The individual voices are addictive, funny, and insightful; together, they create a compelling story that’s easy to read and hard to put down.
Haslett is a brilliant writer of prose and creator of plot, without ever being showy. We’re simply immersed from page one. Michael eventually emerges as the central character, and his chapters are always a delight, since he writes them as satires of the forces he’s encountering in a life made more complicated by virtue of who he is. John’s passages are beautifully done explorations of melancholy. Margaret is pragmatic and loving. Celia, resolute, and Alec a bit tightly wound.
Haslett’s immense talent allows him to tie these voices together both by virtue of the fact that everyone is related, and because they are all growing up, growing older, becoming themselves. The subtlety of his work is such that it never draws attention to itself. We’re with Michael and Margaret and John and Celia and Alec as the events of a family life, joyous and tragic, become, by virtue of his prose, part of our lives. And while this is a family with its share of troubles, it’s not a dysfunctional family. It is a real family; imperfect.
Imagine Me Gone pulls no punches. Even a functional family, motivated by love, finds itself faced with tough choices. And we don’t always make the best choices. But imperfect choices and imperfect families are the norm. If we choose love and compassion to guide our lives, if we let the voices and prose of Imagine Me Gone flow through our minds, we might for a few moments find a vantage point, a perspective in which our imperfections are part of a larger, more beautiful lifescape.
Discussing a book with the power and plotting of Imagine Me Gone is a challenge of which, as it happens, author Adam Haslett is fully capable. If you’ve already read the book, then, you’ll find a lot of insight into your experience in our conversations. But if you’ve yet to read the book, then I trust that our chats will offer you some tips as to how the work was created, and a bedrock of understanding of the work to hand that will intrigue you to run out and buy it while you can still get a first/first hardcover.
You might start with the lightning round interview; follow the link to download the file or listen here.
We get down to some “inside baseball” “process questions,” which I trend towards as opposed to the “So what happen next?” genre, in the in-depth interview. You can follow the link to download the file or listen here.