Gone: A Novel by Cathi Hanauer (Atria Books, $24.99, 347 pages)
Take what you need… Take what you want. Figure it out, find it, do it. That’s what he was doing. That’s what he did.
Cathi Hanauer is one heck of a writer; she’s a woman who can write about serious things and funny things in equal proportions. This may be because this is the way life is… Sometimes it plays out the way we think it will, sometimes it shocks and astounds us, and sometimes things simply seem to happen at random.
In Gone, we meet Eve Adams, a mother of two and a wife, whose husband Eric has suddenly left their comfortable home in Massachusetts. Eric, a once successful sculptor, said he would drive the ultra short-skirted babysitter home, and then simply failed to return. Eve, the author of a decently selling reality-based diet book, finds out from the credit card statements that Eric has headed west to Arizona (his mother lives in Tucson) – and he’s apparently used the credit card to spend nights in hotels with the babysitter.
We run from our lives, from the mediocrity and the abandoned plans and dreams and the people we’re sick of, including ourselves. But wherever we go, there we are. And so we go back, to the people we love. But you can’t really go back, of course.
The story is told in alternating chapters, first in Eve’s words and then in Eric’s. As might be expected, each has a different perspective on the pressures that drove them apart. Eve has had to become the family breadwinner since Eric seems to have lost his artistic inspirations. Eric feels like a failure and comes to view Eve as overly harsh and judgmental – especially when compared to the babysitter Dria, who tells Eric that he’s both an artistic genius and a nice man.
…he didn’t lose himself around Eve. If anything, he found himself through her, and lost himself when she wasn’t there to reflect it back to him: to praise his work, to admire what he did. To love him.
Separated for many weeks, both Eve and Eric have some major decisions to make. Eve needs to decide if she’ll ever forgive Eric once he returns, if he returns. And Eric needs to determine if he can be the type of practical family man who can place earning a paycheck in front of his need to be creative (as he’s forced to admit that he hasn’t been a creative artist in years).
In Gone, Hanauer serves up not only an admirable family novel, but adds a couple of bonus items to the menu. First, she does a fine job of describing the essence of Tucson, Arizona – a city she resided in while teaching writing at the University of Arizona. (Bear down.) Secondly, she offers a book-within-the-book, as Eve’s practical tips to dieting and nutrition will serve the average reader quite well. The tips are both common sense-based and near-brilliant, and, if followed, may add years to one’s life.
One nice aspect about the conclusion of Gone is that the reader discovers that Eve and Eric both have new facets of themselves to reveal. Neither is a stereotype, and each is a human being loaded with underlying strengths and weaknesses. That’s the way life is.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Cathi Hanauer succeeds beautifully in creating a story that will make you care and keep turning the pages…” Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion. “It’s a compelling, big-hearted book.” Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You.