If You Loved ‘Dept. of Speculation,’ This is For You: Catherine Lacey’s ‘Nobody is Ever Missing’

everFirst of all just look at that amazing cover. It only gets better from there. Second, I don’t think anything I can really say about this book will do it justice because it was just that beautifully written, but I’m going to try. But the bottom line is: read it, read it now.

Elyria is lost, and that’s putting it mildly. She came from a broken family, a family that was then irrevocably shattered when her beloved, adopted sister Ruby takes her own life. Elyria has no one to talk to about this loss and nowhere to place her emotions. Everything is confining her and she has a force inside of her that’s itching to be let out. She leaves her husband, whom she doesn’t think she will ever understand or be understood by, and goes to New Zealand.

Bringing nothing but a small backpack and the shoes on her feet, Elyria hitchhikes to the home of a writer she met once, who mentioned staying with him, and nothing more than that. She has no plans, and more importantly she doesn’t want plans. She doesn’t know how to live like a regular adult, doesn’t feel anything anymore, and wants to remain missing.

I realized that even if no one ever found me, and even if I lived out the rest of my life here, always missing, forever a missing person to other people, I could never be missing to myself, I could never delete my own history, and I would always know exactly where I was and where I had been and I would never wake up not being whom I was and it didn’t matter how much or how little I thought I understood the mess of myself, because I would never, no matter what I did, be missing to myself and that was what I had wanted all this time, to go fully missing, but I would never be able to go fully missing — nobody is missing like that, no one has ever had that luxury and no one ever will.”

The story is simple on the surface: nothing much appears to actually happen, but the introspection and fearless writing makes it so much more than a story about a wife who leaves her husband. There is so much going on in Elyria’s head and despite her descent into madness or depression, Catherine Lacey conveys those things so well. Every sentence is constructed in a way that will make you feel something.

Some people make us feel more human and some people make us feel less human and this is a fact as much as gravity is a fact and maybe there are ways to prove it, but the proof of it matters less than the existence of it—how a stranger can show up and look at you and make you make more sense to yourself and the world, even if that sense is extremely fragile and only comes around occasionally and is prone to wander or fade—what matters is that sometimes sense is made between two people and I don’t know if it’s random or there is any kind of order to it, what combinations of people work the best and why and how do we find these people and how do we keep these people around, and I don’t know if it’s chaos or not chaos but it feels like chaos to me so I suppose it is.

A blurb on the back of the book says “This book is a squall and Catherine Lacey is a force” and that just sums it up. The style reminded me a lot of Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill, which was one of my favorites last year. Strangely enough, I found Nobody is Ever Missing on a display titled “If You Loved Gone Girl…” But it’s NOT GONE GIRL, and not every book has to or should be.

I finished this and immediately searched for anything else she’d written, and inhaled the short stories I could find. I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next, but I know that no matter what it is, I’ll read it.

6 comments

  1. Wow – this review got my attention even though I haven’t read Dept. of Speculation. I’m a sucker for great writing though, and I like what you shared. And – let’s (my “let’s”, I mean the marketing people) just QUIT it with the “next Gone Girl” stuff…it’s killing the chances of these books to succeed in my opinion!

  2. Ooh, this sounds fantastic! I love your comparison to Dept. of Speculation, and the quotes you shared are gorgeous! (Why does everything have to be the next Gone Girl?! Ugh.)

  3. Oh wow, you are getting me VERY excited about this book. I heard Lacey in a book podcast with comedians and she was super interesting. I also read this article about “2014’s Literary Trend Toward Solitude as Feminist Statement” here http://flavorwire.com/495959/leaving-it-all-behind-2014s-literary-trend-toward-solitude-as-feminist-statement Very interesting! If you liked this, you might like All the Birds, Singing too (if you haven’t read it already). I loved it!

    1. All the Birds Singing was great! They all remind me of each other actually, that, Dept. Of Speculation and Nobody is Ever Missing, and I LOVE THEM ALL! Going to check out that interview now !!

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