When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalised 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. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings – the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec – struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.
Mental illness is a creature if faced directly, or through the eyes of a loved one, changes you forever. Imagine Me Gone is a novel that sinks you deep into the world of depression and shows you first hand how it feels to live a life were the negative perspective is predominant. It is a courageous attempt and a successful portrayal of the way mental illness affects all family members. It is a heartbreaking journey of love, suffering and support. Imagine Me Gone will shake your soul and remind it what is truly important in life. As someone who has dealt with mental illness in his family, I found the novel so honest and redemptive.
The characters in Imagine Me Gone exemplify quiet resilience. Haslett imbues each member of the family with nuance and depth. They come most alive in their interactions with one another: how Celia listens to Michael’s fanatic rambles, how Margaret pays for his bills without question, how Alec attaches himself to all their problems and cannot let go. Each family member tests how deep and how far they can extend themselves for one another. Sometimes they fail, which makes them the most human of all.
What I loved the most about Haslett’s characters is that they were build with such passion and care that you know that out there in real life there are people who are just the same, who make the exact same choices and have the exact same voices.
Honestly said, it will take you a while to settle in and feel cozy with the setting and characters, but once you get accustomed to the narrative you will become one with the novel. Don’t get me wrong it definitely is not and cannot be an easy read. It is heavy and hard on the stomach, especially for someone who has lived through similar life events. But it is a novel that will no doubt haunt me for many days to come.