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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

He's Gone by Deb Caletti

He's Gone by Deb Caletti
Published by Bantam Books ISBN 978-0-345-53435-4
Trade paperback, $15, 323 pages
When Dani Keller wakes up after a party at her husband’s work the night before, she finds him gone. She knows she had one too many glasses of wine, and she can’t remember everything that happened. Did they have a fight?

She figures he’s off sulking or went to get coffee, but when he doesn’t return, she begins to realize He’s Gone, the name of Deb Caletti’s incredibly tense, punch-to-the-gut examination of a marriage.

Dani was married to an abusive husband with an adorable daughter Abby when she met Ian. His daughter played on Abby’s baseball team, and Dani and Ian were immediately attracted to each other.

They weren’t the kind of people who had affairs, but this was different. Ian’s wife Mary liked to drink, socialize and spend money. Ian was more introspective.

Dani and Ian have an affair, and though they are conflicted about it, eventually they end up together. Mary and her daughters are furious, and cut Ian out of their lives. Ian is tortured by the breakup of his family.

As the hours tick by, Dani calls everyone Ian knows, but he is nowhere to be found. His car is parked by their houseboat, no one has used his cell phone or credit cards. Finally Dani calls the police, they start an investigation, but there is no sign of Ian.

Ian’s daughters blame Dani, and soon the police focus in on her. Not only does she have to deal with not knowing where her husband is, but she could be a suspect in his disappearance.

As the story unwinds, we see that things are not as perfect as Dani first tells everyone. She and Ian call each other their soulmates, but what does that really mean?

More than a mystery, this is an examination of a relationship. Dani must dig deep to answer some hard questions not only about her marriage, but also about herself.

The writing is superb. Upon discovering Ian gone, Dani thinks
 “I didn’t think about discovering someone else’s breakfast dishes or the change from their pocket left out on the dresser, their presence sitting right next to their absence.”

Her descriptions of people are vivid too. Of Ian, Dani thinks
 “Ian likes things to go right. He liked the towels folded a certain way; he likes the car vacuumed a certain way; he likes an email to be written in a certain way. He doesn’t like errors of balance or manners or grammar. He never makes mistakes, I swear. Never a misstep. It can get exhausting, trying to measure up. You start to feel as if you’re on a perpetual job interview.”

Since Ian isn’t available to tell us his side, we have to rely on other to tell us about him.

Caletti’s observations about relationships rang so true. 
“When you love a person, you come to know so many things about them. You know what they’ll order in a restaurant, and you know that they’ll cut the scratchy tags off their shirt collars and that they get cranky when they need to eat or when the bed sheets become baggy. You know by the lilt and rhythms of their voice if they’re talking on the phone to their mother, or their daughter, or their lawyer. But, maybe most of all, you know their relationship to criticism.”

Dani goes through all of the things that could have happened to Ian- he ran away, he’s injured, he’s dead, he went back to his first wife. But in order to do that, she has to face some hard truths about who Ian really is and who she is, and what they were together.

The resolution to the mystery is my original theory, though Caletti does a good job throwing people off the scent until the last moment. He’s Gone evokes so many emotions as you read it, you’ll find yourself thinking about it for a long time to come.

Some people may compare it to Gone Girl, as they are both mysteries about what happens to a missing spouse, but He's Gone is so much richer and deeper in its themes and execution.

Rating 4 of 5

You can read an excerpt here.

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