Getting old sucks. Getting old sucks, like, a lot. Not only do we all get uglier, fatter, we also tend to start losing “ourselves”. Turning 25 this year, I was scared shitless. “Who am I?” “What am I doing?” “Where am I going?” were just a few of the questions I found myself contemplating, so upon reading the summary for Catherine Lacey’s debut novel Nobody is Ever Missing, I couldn’t help but make it my next read.
Elyria is a twenty-eight-year-old soap opera writer from Manhattan, married, no children; her life is the essence of stability. However, still coping with the death of her sister and tumultuous childhood, and growing tired of the monotony in her “stale” life, she decides to escape from it all. Without alerting anyone, Elyria leaves the country on a one-way journey to New Zealand to cleanse herself of herself and to embrace nothingness. Nobody is Ever Missing is the story of one person’s struggle with identity, in Elyria’s case, the purging of one. Written in deeply personal first-person prose, Nobody is Ever Missing is an essential story for the contemporary. It is an intimate look into the mind of a person suffering from the loss of a loved one, as well as dealing with a troublesome marriage.
Overall, the story is absolutely fantastic. Catherine Lacey has managed to not only create a character that is both loveable and loathsome, but she has managed to create a character that readers will recognize, a character not unlike themselves. While Elyria is female and the story is very much written in feminist prose, it isn’t difficult for either sex to identify with. The beauty of Nobody is Ever Missing is that a 25-year-old middle class white man can pick it up and feel exactly what Elyria is feeling. “Am I ready to be married?” “Is it possible to be completely alone?” “Why can’t my brain just turn off?” While I can’t help but attribute some of these feels to my current state of being, but most of the credit is given to Lacey.
To accompany Lacey’s storytelling is the style in which she writes. It’s difficult to describe. While reading, it seems as though you are reading the actual thoughts running through a person’s head, raw and disjointed. The best part is that the writing, for the most part, isn’t overly complex, it has a flow of actual consciousness. This a feat I marveled at throughout: Lacey made a fictitious character seem so real that I had to question whether or not it was a memoir. The only time the novel falters at all is at the end of a chapter. The end of most chapters serve as a sort of summary section to recap what had happened in the last few pages. However, it isn’t done through Elyria going into detail about the happenings, instead she describes what happens through analogies. At first, I really enjoyed them; they were mostly humorous and meaningful, but the more they were used, the more I disliked them. What I instead would have liked to have read would have been one or two analogies that become a crucial part of the story.
Rating: 8 out of 10 – Catherine Lacey succeeded in writing an exceptional debut novel. The story is raw and to the point, successfully capturing the human condition and in less than 300 pages. If you are looking for a novel to read in one or two sittings, this is it. However, if you are looking for any answers to you “aging crisis”, you better look elsewhere, atonement is not one of this books themes. Great read.