The portrayal of family and mental illness in Imagine Me Gone

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What I read

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

What it’s about

Margaret learns about John’s depression before she marries him, but it doesn’t keep her from wanting to build a life with him. They have three children, one of whom experiences another serious mental illness. Imagine Me Gone follows the family of five over several decades, with chapters alternating between the perspectives of each family member.

This novel beautifully portrays a family who not only cares about each other but who care for each other. While the story illustrates how mental illness affects a family, it also explores the love, loyalty and devotion in various relationships.

Why I picked it up

I can’t remember where I first heard about Imagine Me Gone, but I read about it several times before I stumbled across a copy in the bookstore. There was something about the white cover and the missing letters that caught my eye. Still, it took a few more bookstore visits before I bought the novel.

The subject of mental illness appealed to me, and I do enjoy books that explore familial relationships. But I hesitated because this type of subject matter is something so many writers could get wrong, and I suppose I also thought the book could be too dark. But earlier this month, I couldn’t resist its appeal and I bought a copy.

What I liked about it

Haslett’s prose is stunning. As with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Imagine Me Gone moves at a pace that made it almost impossible for me to put down, and yet it also made me want to reread sentences or paragraphs because of the beautiful wording.

I was impressed with how Haslett managed to write about complicated subject matter and complicated feelings without making it feel complicated to read. He smartly inserts humour into the story that helps with this.

Haslett also does a great job of giving each of the family members their own distinct voice. The inner thoughts and feelings of each of the five family members is captured brilliantly.

This is such an honest book. It never felt over-written, exaggerated or pretentious. I’m so glad I picked it up.

You’ll want to read it if…

This is definitely a book for fans of literary fiction. It’s a particularly good choice if you like novels that move between perspectives of several characters. And if you enjoy stories that examine family dynamics or sibling relationships, you should read this book.

Recommended refreshments

I read most of this book on one very cold December afternoon. Part of that afternoon was spent inside a cozy cafe with a mug of hot chocolate. I highly recommend this experience for anyone reading Imagine Me Gone.

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2 thoughts on “The portrayal of family and mental illness in Imagine Me Gone

  1. Pingback: The books I read in 2016 | Finding the Words

  2. Pingback: Harmless Like You packs a punch | Finding the Words

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