Monday, July 2, 2012

"Gone," by Cathi Hanauer

There is something a bit odd about Cathi Hanauer’s new novel, “Gone” (Atria, 2012) (not to be confused with the current bestseller, “Gone Girl”). The central plot point is that a husband has suddenly left his wife, without telling her he is leaving, or where he is going. Yet there isn’t much suspense, as he frequently texts their teenaged daughter, and his destination is his mother’s house across the U.S. (yes, really, he runs away to his mother's house...). We are also clearly told that each of the two still loves the other, although Eve is sometimes exasperated with Eric. We first hear Eve’s story, then Eric’s, and then the story goes back and forth between their two perspectives. The reactions of their two children, fourteen-year-old Magnolia and eight-year-old Danny, are well-portrayed and seem realistic. The story is interesting enough, and kept me reading, but it all seems so low-key, and the writing is disappointingly talky and full of exposition. There are even long chunks of didactic -- very didactic -- explanations and exhortations about nutrition (the pretext for this is that Eve is a nutritionist), the environment, and mental health (Eric’s mother is a therapist). There are some thoughtful sections, and some better-written sections, but overall the pedestrian writing is an obstacle to really enjoying the book.

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