Imagine Me Gone and the Stranger Within Us

Book Review of “IMAGINE ME GONE” by Adam Haslett

Why are all Americans obsessed with family? The figures. The intimacies and the distances. The breakdown of the nuclear. Of Mad Men’s Draper clan. In recent literary years we’ve seemingly encountered every gradation of familial disintegration within this continent’s quest to have come from somewhere. From Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (format inseminator) to the political craze of Nathan Hill’s The Nix to the deathbed ancestry of Chabon’s Moonglow all the way to the electromagnetic racial tampering of Reif Larson’s I Am Radar. We are doomed to the shackles of genetics built by Faulkner. To the investigation of some sort of closeness in the absolute insularity of contemporary context- that is- what do we even mean to each other anymore? All that to say that the true beauty of Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone is in its love within the epitome of isolation.

Michael, heteronormative/white/cis looking 4 love, is being suffocated by his own privilege. By a disease handed down from his father. Where career-feminist sister and homosexually promiscuous brother escape, Micheal is entrapped. Through his narrative addressed to various indebted insurance companies we feel his sense of displacement as he falls for a string of black lesbians, the ultimate form of civil marginalization with which he can identify, whilst grappling with being the physical incarnate of pain sans persecution. Mental illness is a strain of elitism isn’t it? By the end of the novel Michael’s family find the ease of normality through their particular strain of societal distortion. Alec settles down in love with his boyfriend while bonding amongst BBQing beer-sipping patriarchs. Celia marries her live-in non-breadwinning boyfriend after a successfully pragmatic abortion. Michael is singled out. The institutional marker of The American is now alone in America. The outsideness of being the ultimate insider.

If you read any Goodreads reviews for this novel they will all begin with “As someone who has suffered from(struggled with…submitted to…) mental illness — ” *Insert personal involvement in chemical instability overtreated by pill-pushers in a system of unreliable insurance reps here* This book is relatable content. And like all relateable content we turn it into what we need to hear about ourselves. About how we feel. About who we are. About how the system has wronged us. Wronged our family. Left a slew of antipsychotic dependent malcontents in its wake. Is there no way out? There is such wide and personable spectrum of non-belonging that this novel touches so resonantly on. The feeling of being exterior. Even from yourself.

Another beautifully broken American family to add to the zeitgeist I guess.