Imagine Me Gone

ImagineMeGoneFrom a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, a fiercely 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 fiancé, 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, and the story of how, over the span of decades, his younger siblings—the savvy and responsible Celia, and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec—struggle with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

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

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“Dark and winning humour, poignant tenderness, and sentences so astute that they lift the spirit. But make no mistake, the novel’s most rewarding surprise is its heart.”

New York Times Book Review

“Haslett is one of the country’s most talented writers, equipped with a sixth sense for characterization and a limber, unpretentious style. Perhaps his rarest gift is the apprehension of the invisible connections that tie people together…Haslett is alert to the reality of others, and the insinuating power of this novel comes from its framing of mental illness as a family affair.”

Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“Powerful and intensely intimate… This is haunting, astute, emotionally intense and beautiful.”

Attitude Magazine



“A smart, subtle take on a family story – and it even manages to be humorous too. What sets it apart from other fictional accounts of mental illness are its moments of insight into the impact it has on those around the sufferer. I found myself admiring what Haslett had done.

There is so much to applaud.”

Fiona Wilson, The Times

“Remarkable… Imagine Me Gone is as much concerned with the effects of mental illness on the families of those suffering as it is with the suffers themselves.”

Sam Kitchener, Sunday Telegraph

“Imagine Me Gone is a beautiful, elegant, harrowing story of the dissonant music of family. Adam Haslett stamps his world with a poignant literary seal. His insight is as lively and as inventive as his language. In his hands the old stories become new. This is a book that makes you eager, once more, for the complications of the world.”

Colum McCann, National Book Award winner for Let the Great World Spin

“Haslett’s second novel depicts, with candor and tenderness, a family’s struggle with the effects of mental illness…Especially moving is Haslett’s ability to anatomize the ways that a family contorts itself around one member’s struggles.”

The New Yorker

“Imagine Me Gone brilliantly captures the excruciating burden of love and the role it plays in both our survival and our destruction. Haslett suspends a sense of dread over you like an anvil from page one, cutting the rope that holds it in the brutal last act. You’d be a fool to look away.”

Julia Black, Esquire

“Haslett has a great gift for capturing the strikingly different inner worlds of his characters and rendering them in beautiful prose. … the book manages to transform its pathos into something more complex. Haslett’s prose, so finely adapted for each of the characters, seems to do just this, honouring the living and the dead.”

The Guardian

“A richly drawn, Franzenesque canvas . . . Haslett’s prose shimmers as he peers unflinchingly at the risks and rewards of fighting for love.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

“Ambitious and stirring…. With Imagine Me Gone, Haslett has reached another level, affording readers a full and luminous depiction of a mind under siege…. But make no mistake, the novel’s most rewarding surprise is its heart. Again and again, the characters subtly assert that despite the expense of empathy and the predictable disappointment of love, our tendency to care for one another is warranted.”

Bret Anthony Johnston, New York Times Book Review

“Searing . . . Devastating and gorgeously written . . . Pure genius . . . By signing on with Haslett and his characters we are given the chance to look beyond our minutiae and daily distractions in order to notice the passage of time as experienced by others. We are reminded of what it is like to be truly, if fleetingly, alive.”

Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle

Imagine Me Gone is one of the few, legit must-read books of the year.”

J. Ryan Parker, Patheos

“A novel about inherited mental illness that centers on one of the most compelling literary characters I’ve come across in a long time.”

The Stranger

Imagine Me Gone is a family saga reminiscent at times of Anne Enright’s The Green Road. It is raw, tender and hilarious. In the writing of Michael, the Pulitzer Prize-shortlisted Haslett lets rip to dazzling effect: a family therapy session, related by Michael in the form of an Army incident report, is a showstopper. But the voices of the novel’s other narrators are equally involving, and the psychological insight piercing. True, the emotional demands are considerable. But the investment more than pays off.”

Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

“A devastating family drama . . . Haslett’s considerable skills as a writer turn domestic conflicts into something more profound . . . In one beautifully rendered scene after another, Haslett shows the family dealing with John’s illness and Michael’s descent while also managing their own conflicts . . . Imagine Me Gone is a handsome work . . . the sort of writing that is guaranteed to turn heads.”

Michael Magras, Miami Herald

“Powerful . . .  Imagine Me Gone respects the mystery of how things happen the way they happen, while brilliantly conjuring the tide-like pull with which dreaded possibilities become harsh inevitability.”

Michael Upchurch, Boston Globe

“An extraordinary blend of precision, beauty, and tenderness . . . Haslett’s signature achievement in Imagine Me Gone is to temper the harrowing with the humorous while keeping a steady bead on the pathos. You want sympathetic characters? You want a narrative that showcases love as a many-splendored thing capacious enough to encompass stalwart, long-suffering spouses, loyal siblings, suffocatingly obsessive crushes, and casual, noncommittal relationships (both gay and straight) that morph as if by magic into soul-sustenance? You want writing that thrums with anguish and compassion? It’s all here.”

Heller McAlpin, NPR

“Smart and polyphonic…. Haslett is that rare writer whose art can console without ceasing to be art.”

Boris Kachka, New York

“Adam Haslett’s second novel is about family, love, forgotten music, and a despair that proves unbearable, and has one of the most harrowing and sustained descriptions of a mind in obsessive turmoil and disrepair that I’ve ever read. Haslett is a marvelously lucid and intelligent writer.”

Joy Williams

Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Quick and the Dead

“Adam Haslett’s brilliant second novel captures two troubled minds with rare empathy, realism, and insight . . . It’s a memorable, funny, and ultimately heartbreaking trip.”

Mark Athitakis, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Haslett’s second novel is a potent tale of love and loss . . . By its heartbreaking conclusion, we’ve come to know intimately the joys and struggles of each member of this troubled family.”

Jane Ciabattari, BBC

‘Haslett’s heart-wrenching story of a family who are stalked by the “beast” of depression is elegantly empathetic, beautifully describing the way the illness takes life’s uncertainties apart and tests even the staunchest of relationships. Michael is the dark star at the heart of the story.’

Eithne Farry, Sunday Express

“Stunning…Beautifully written and filled with astonishing insight…Haslett’s particular talent is to fuse the high to the low, the sardonic to the profound, cultural critique to human feeling, to achieve a seamless, polished whole. Imagine Me Gone accomplishes a complex feat.”

Melissa H. Pierson, Barnes & Noble Review

“An ambitious book about music, anxiety, and a family determined to stick together after fracturing loss, Imagine Me Gone is proof that realistic stories have immense power.”

Maddie Crum, Huffington Post

“Expansive and precise.”

Megan O'Grady, Vogue

“Compelling . . . An achingly realistic portrait of a family sucked into-and dry by-a mentally-ill loved one’s spiral into darkness.”

Jenny Comita, W Magazine

“There are some books, and this is one, that grab you in the first paragraphs and don’t let go, even when the last page has been read. Haslett is certainly not the first novelist to broach the topic of depression…But he’s done so with such a fresh voice and playfulness of form…that the resulting novel begs a reevaluation of how we view and cope with tragedy.”

Keziah Weir, Elle

“Imagine Me Gone is a saga of a troubled upper-middle class family that resembles the work of Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler. What makes it distinctive is that it feels so convincing. Intimate and panoramic… There is an exhilaration in reading something so perceptive and well executed. This is certainly a sad story, but also a warm and moving one, which bears witness to the intertwining of grief and love.”

Theo Tait, Sunday Times

Imagine Me Gone is literature of the highest order. It manages to be both dreadfully sad and hilariously funny all at once. It is luminous with love.”

Peter Carey

Man Booker Prize winner for True History of the Kelly Gang

“A moving novel about how love and frustration shape the family dynamics of those affected by psychological instability . . . Imagine Me Gone is a character novel to be savored for its complex and empathetic portrait of family.”

Kelsey Ronan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Imagine Me Gone is immensely personal and private, yet feels universal and ultimately essential in its scope. In its pages, Haslett has laid bare the agonies and ecstasies of the human condition and the familial ties that bind. The end result is a book that you do not read so much as feel, deeply and intensely, in the very marrow of your bones.”

Stephenie Harrison, BookPage

“In this moving novel, Haslett explores how the profound depression of one person reverberates through an entire family. This beautiful, tragic, engrossing depiction of a web of emotional fault lines should win Haslett an even wider readership.”

National Book Review

“We come to know the family at the center of Adam Haslett’s powerful new novel as intimately as if they were our own . . . Imagine Me Gone is the story of this family across the decades-a family that is bonded and riven and bonded again by mental illness . . . [Oldest son] Michael is the center of the novel and certainly Haslett’s most original character . . . For the reader, as for his family, Michael is strangely dear, utterly maddening, and ultimately heartbreaking.”

Tom Beer, Newsday

“Haslett has already produced a quiveringly sensitive body of work that stands as a moving testament to the persistence of love in the face of the adversities occasioned by diseases of the brain…. With his crystalline sentences and uncanny knack for inhabiting the minds of his characters, channeling their distinct voices with the otherworldly insight of a spiritual medium, Haslett has become a master.”

Kevin Nance, Poets & Writers

“As a meditation on mental illness and its reverberations, the novel is generous and honest.”

Rachel Giese, Chatelaine

“Haslett’s latest is a sprawling, ambitious epic about a family bound not only by familial love, but by that sense of impending emergency that hovers around Michael, who has inherited his father John’s abiding depression and anxiety….This is a book that tenderly and luminously deals with mental illness and with the life of the mind…. In Michael, Haslett has created a most memorable character. This is a hypnotic and haunting novel.

Publishers Weekly

(Starred Review)

Imagine Me Gone is beautiful, it’s terrifying, it’s intimate and epic, and it’s devastating—one of the great books about loss and mourning and the ineluctable laws that govern the political economy of families. I cannot describe the force or the depth of its accomplishment except to say that this magnificent work of art has overwhelmed me and broken my heart. It will take me a long time to come to terms with this novel.”

Tony Kushner

Author of Angels in America

Imagine Me Gone is an extraordinary work of art. The family Adam Haslett has created feels as true and as complex as our own actual families are, and lays nearly as deep a claim upon our love and loyalty. The eldest son, Michael, is simply one of the finest characters I’ve ever come across in fiction. This beautiful, tragic novel will haunt you for the rest of your life and you will be all the more human for it.”

Paul Harding

Pulitzer Prize winner for Tinkers

“Haslett has created a distinctive and winning voice and character [in Michael] that transforms what might have otherwise been just-another-accomplished-literary-novel about an American family’s tragicomic goings on into something far more affecting and beguiling. … The result is a tour-de-force of manic brilliance, both zealously funny and painfully sad.”

Randy Boyagoda in the FT

“Profoundly moving… I have read tens of books on this subject, and written one myself, and I can’t think of anything I have ever read that captures that feeling, the loneliness, the frustration, the compassion and the fight between wanting to help and wanting to run away. Despite all this, it is not depressing because it is so well written. I’ve bought it for five people already. It is a Great American Novel. It also works as a thriller – you want to know what’s going to happen.”

Sathnam Sanghera

BBC Radio 4

“What was extraordinary about it was the detail of each character… The thing that is absolutely essential to the book is the veracity of the emotion. It is absolutely truthful. It is truthful about grief, at a very deep place, and it does it with tiny detail that means that it is completely emotionally apposite, and you can’t escape that right the way through it. And yet it is so beautifully written that you can’t stop turning the pages. The writing is gorgeous. It is a Great American Family Novel.”

Barb Jungr

BBC Radio 4

I absolutely love the book. I found it deeply moving and beautifully written. It is not a one dimensional picture of Michael’s psychosis.”

Alice Rawsthorn

BBC Radio 4