Tuesday, May 21, 2013

He's Gone by Deb Caletti - TLC Book Tours

He's Gone by Deb Caletti
Bantam Books, 2013

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of He's Gone in exchange for a review.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

The Title? pretty direct..he is gone.

The Cover?  Seattle, rain, yes...the woman in the red dress?  no...only a minor character...

I was reminded of? Gone Girl but nowhere near as intense.  "Sleeping in Seattle" just because of the location...I could literally see the houseboat and the street across where Ian's car was parked.  Dark Tide, again because of the houseboat and one very specific detail that I can't tell you.

Why?  I let my mind and both the cover and title lead me astray on this one...it looked and sounded sinister...a thriller, a hidden life...but that's not what this story is about.

What Now?  I'd like to read something a little happier now.  He's Gone is actually pretty depressing...multiple lives are torn apart on a variety of levels, and nobody wins.  There are no good guys and bad guys here

 Golden Lines

For the most part, I keep my mouth shut about the butterflies, in spite of my feelings about them.  That kind of silence is what you end up with when you get together the way we did.  At first you're sure that love is larger than any obstacle, but then love comes to feel flimsy measured against what's been lost - family and friends and a history (25).

What if this is nothing more than lust? he asked once.   He asked a version of that question many more times still.  And I would answer.  I would give all the reasons, making an argument.  I fought for it (85).

In this cocoon there is work to be done.  Old structures are remade.  I think, I write, I read.  I try to make peace with myself.  I try to remember the simple but difficult truth that we mostly do the best we can with what we have.  What a feat this is, too, to do the best we can with what we have.  What a feat that is, too, to do the best we have, given that we've got to drag our histories along with us, like one of those big old Samsonite suitcases from the time before luggage had wheels (323).

Short and Sweet Summary

Dani wakes up one morning and finds her husband Ian gone.  Just gone.  Was he abducted?  In an accident?  Did he just walk away to start over again?  or Return to his first wife Mary?  As the search for Ian intensifies and Dani's anxiety grows, she reviews her life with Ian, their affair, their ambivalence toward their first spouses, their children's lives and how they've been affected, the changes, and finally their ambivalence towards each other.  Was it all worth it?  If they had it to do differently, what would they change and would they still choose each other?

What I Liked

The Nabakov metaphor of the butterfly and transformation.  Not many people know of Nabakov's love of butterflies...I do and was surprised to find this detail tied so deeply into the story.
I think Caletti means for us to see Dani transform, slowly, frustratingly and painfully...if so, she succeeds.

Pollux - Dani's little dog stole the show for me, and his little character and bit parts kept me around when I would have liked to shut the book.

Dani's mom and daughter - both of these characters seemed tougher than Dani...they spoke their own minds...freely and sometimes with very colorful language...but they weren't sorry for it.  Abby (Dani's daughter) loves being in her pajamas...but it's not a big deal.  Who cares?  Very unlike her mother, who over-analyzed everything and gave in too much to everybody.

I liked the real life portrayal of an affair that ends in a marriage that isn't exactly the fairytale the couple thought it would be.  I like the slap in the face of real people who lead others "astray" without the kindest of intentions...and those gullible enough to fall into that net.

What I Didn't Like

Most of the characters - I didn't feel sorry for Ian and Dani...I just didn't.  I think a lot of people fall into affairs the way they did, thinking that life will always be that romantic heady feeling with this new person...who then turns out to be a regular person as well.  To me, that's not rocket science, and I guess it just confuses me that so many people fall into that trap.

Ian - really? There were a lot of early signs Dani should have seen.  But she chose not to.

I think it was a mistake to make Dani's first husband an abuser.  I wonder how women who've actually lived through this situation would feel about Caletti's portrayal of Dani being attracted to the "bad boy."  Is an abuser just a "bad boy"?  I don't think Caletti means to downplay abuse; I just think both the abuse and the affair get muddled because Caletti put them together in the same story.  And, then, even more muddled for me was that Dani took two Vicodin and drank so much the night Ian disappeared that she couldn't remember what happened after they got home.  It was just a train wreck for me...and maybe that's exactly what Caletti had in mind.

The Ending - I'm going to be honest here...I read the ending pretty quickly...before I actually finished the book.  I was trying to convince myself to keep reading :( Dani is a very needy character; she and I would never be friends in real life bc I wouldn't have an ounce of patience with her.  This story tied up way too nicely and neatly with only a few hints buried throughout of what would eventually be discovered.

Ian's daughters and the ridiculous boyfriend accusing Dani...it just seemed a little much to me...any of these little rivers could have made for a riveting thriller leading up to the actual discovery...but all of it together was too much for me.  And if Caletti didn't intend for He's Gone to be a thriller, then there were some "thrilling" bits that could have been downplayed.  I just think it was frustrating for me as a reader.

Overall Recommendation

I hate not liking a book I've asked to read, but I didn't like this one.  I would very much like to read the story of Dani's next chapter, however, the one where her transformation becomes complete...on her own.  Just because I didn't like it, however, doesn't mean that someone else won't.  I'm a huge believer in reader response theories; each reader brings his/her own ideas and transacts with a text.  My personal reader's transaction with He's Gone was just not what I hoped it would be.

The Author




Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, May 13th:  Books a la Mode - guest post/giveaway
Monday, May 20th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, May 21st:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Wednesday, May 22nd:  Books in the Burbs
Thursday, May 23rd:  WV Stitcher
Friday, May 24th:  The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Tuesdya, May 28th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, May 29th:  Literally Jen
Thursday, May 30th:  Knowing the Difference
Monday, June 3rd:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, June 5th:  Life, Love, & Books
Thursday, June 6th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, June 10th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, June 11th:  Book Chatter
Wednesday, June 12th:  A Novel Review
Thursday, June 13th:  Sweet Southern Home


  1. I hate that feeling too - the feeling of liking a synopsis, investing the time in reading, trying to figure out what is going on and then being left with meh.

    1. I knew pretty quickly after I started reading that it was not going to be what I originally thought. That's when I looked at the end to see if I was just being impatient. I wasn't. I kept reading though bc I have yet to develop whatever it takes to put a book down that I have started.

  2. I have this one too and I am also on the tour. I thought it was supposed to be a thriller! No? I hope I can get through it. I am dragging right my current book and was so looking forward to reading something thrilling.

    1. No thriller. I was disappointed and possibly unfairly so. I really hate posting negative reviews, bc even though it didn't work for me, it might work for someone else.

  3. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about this book. I think you gave it a fair chance. (This book sounds depressing to me.)

  4. I liked this book as I was in the middle of 3 reviews all about the horrors of war...and this was a different kind of dispute and I did think the transformation of Dani was important for others to read - those that may not have a clue - Of course, I loved reading about Seattle and houseboats!

    I just heard that a dear friend's husband moved out two weeks into an affair and left her and her 4 children to be on their own. I think this book would open up her pain to a bit more clarity and emotional release right now. With one child with Asperger's syndrome she could use some lighter and yet releasing fare. She also has a funny dog which steals the show.

    Thanks for you kind words on Patricias Wisdom.

    1. I do wonder what someone who's actually been through this painful experience would take away from He's Gone...I too know several friends going through affairs/divorces/re-marriage. It just seems a bad situation all the way around...so many more lives affected than just the two people who find themselves "soulmates" with someone else besides their legal mate. The subject matter itself wasn't what I had a problem with though...I just think there was too much...the disappearing husband, the abusive first marriage all along with the 2nd relationship/marriage not turning out as they two had planned. I do think the most important part of He's Gone is the 2nd relationship/marriage difficulties.

    2. I think I would like to read this author's work after a couple of more tries. This is her first transition work from Young Adult fiction to Adult fiction. I think she will grow.

      I work with one book group of 12 women who are great at working out, but not so great at reading - I think they would love this book and the discussion that would happen :)

  5. So glad I stumbled over to your blog through TLC. I really love the format you've created for your reviews, it's such a great way to touch every base for all the books you read. I'll definitely be sticking around!

  6. Thanks for your honest review for the tour!

    1. I enjoyed being on the tour, Heather...even if this one wasn't one of my favorite reads.