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When She Was Gone Paperback – March 19, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Just before she’s supposed to start her freshman year at college, Linsey Hart goes missing. Her absence rocks the insular commuter community, whose hypocritical residents publicly wonder how such a thing could happen, while privately disdaining the people and events at the center of Linsey’s life. Her neighbor, Mr. Leonard, muses about Linsey’s disappearance as he plays Rachmaninoff nocturnes while wearing his deceased mother’s evening gown. George, an 11-year-old social misfit, surreptitiously photographs the town’s denizens, searching for clues as to Linsey’s whereabouts. Randy, middle-aged soccer mom Reeva mourns the loss of Linsey as a babysitter for her autistic son, but not to the point where it interferes with her affair with Jordan, a Starbucks barista half her age. Meanwhile, Linsey’s ex-boyfriend Timmy and her mother, Abigail, each grapple with self-recriminations over their roles in driving Linsey away. Gross’ canny twist on the missing-child trope is less a taunting mystery than a caustic indictment of the superficiality of suburban mores and morals. --Carol Haggas

Review

“What happens behind the closed doors of a neighborhood, and beyond the facades of the people who live there? Gwendolen Gross has the sharp insight of a documentarian, turning her lens on each house of a frightened town after a college-bound girl goes missing. Full of heart but free of sentimentality, When She Was Gone shows the sinews of belonging and not-belonging that bind a community.” (Nichole Bernier author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D)

"Gwendolen Gross uses the disappearance of a young woman to tell the story of a community in crisis, and her gaze is both unflinching and surprisingly tender. When She Was Gone is a dark but elegantly crafted book, the tension building toward a climax that promises redemption to its wayward characters." (Holly Goddard Jones author of The Next Time You See Me)

“Gwendolen Gross creates characters so familiar they could live next door. Her new novel, When She Was Gone, reflects a perfect balance of darkness and intricate struggles, woven together with hope and redemption. Abigail, Reeva, and Mr. Leonard’s voices form some of the most powerful and beautiful language I’ve read in quite a while. Mix in a nail-biting plot and you have one outstanding read.” (Ann Hite award-winning author of Ghost on Black Mountain)

"Death, life, redemption and music combine in a rewarding novel." (Kirkus)

"Similar in title and theme to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Gross’s fifth novel feels more genuine in that her characters are less contrived. Gross deftly depicts the dread-filled unfolding of a mother’s realization that her child is missing and clearly portrays how a crisis of this nature unearths alliances and fissures within a community." (Library Journal)

“Engaging and sentence-perfect, wonderful in so many ways, but I love it best for its vibrant, emotionally complex main character Clementine. I felt so entirely with her, as she loves those around her with both devotion and complexity and as she struggles to achieve a delicate balance between belonging to others and being herself.” (New York Times bestseller Marisa de los Santos)

“With exquisite language and an empathetic ear, Gwendolen Gross paints a gorgeous portrait of life, love, loss and sisterhood, and forces you to ask yourself: how far will you go for your family and what secrets can shatter even that bond? The Orphan Sister will linger long after you’ve turned the final page.” (New York Times bestseller Allison Winn Scotch)

"Breathtakingly original. A haunting exploration of love, loyalty, sisters, hope, and the ties that bind us together—and make the ground tremble beneath us when they break. I loved, loved, loved this novel." (New York Times bestseller Caroline Leavitt)

“This charming portrait of an impossibly gorgeous and gifted family is something rare: a delightful confection, filled with humor and warmth, that also probes the complex nature of identity, the vagaries of romantic and filial love, and the materialism inherent in contemporary American culture." (Joanna Smith Rakoff)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451684746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451684742
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gwendolen Gross's 5 Best Evers from Chick Lit Is Not Dead
Why we love her: Her writing is beautifully lyrical!
Her latest:When She Was Gone

CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS...GWENDOLEN GROSS'S 5 BEST EVERS
BEST SONG: This is a complicated thing, music in general. I grew up listening to loud classical music, NPR, and the Beatles. I sat on the living room rug and mourned the fab four since I was born too late. I studied opera in college and loved it--but also loved a good U2 fest in the 'sco.

Brandi Carlile's "That Wasn't Me" is a whole novel and makes me strong and weepy each playing. I'm a sucker for lyrics, I guess, but also for a hopeful melodic resolution. Folding up childhood and now, I'd say today's favorite song is already almost an oldie, but so beloved for the lyrics and Jack Johnson's absurdly sexy voice: "Do You Remember?" The locked bikes in the song, the piano that took up the living room--well, I met my husband in college, when we still rode bikes to class and cooked for 45 at the co-op, so I'm in love with that song every time I hear it the way I'm in love with my husband every time I see him.

BEST BOOK: This question stumps me every time, because books are like friends, and I don't like to pick out a best. Still, here's a best book I am considering this second: The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. Meg's writing is so smart, funny, sly, and specific; I love all her books. But The Wife has the kind of slow-build-to-a-twist that makes me slap my thigh with delight just remembering it. She has a new one coming out soon--The Interestings. I can't wait.

BEST MOVIE: "Singin' In The Rain," despite the odious apostrophe. I sing along, I dance it whenever there's rain. So much lightness, so much joy in someone running up the walls and across the ceiling. I wanted to be in that movie. I was a short girl with a terrific voice and relatively little glamour, so Debbie Reynolds and her scarf wooed me. Funny faces and Moses Supposes--it never gets old to me.

BEST LIFE MOMENT: Many, many, especially birth of children and marriage proposal, but I'll write about another one because I just watched the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial and it makes me ridiculously mushy:

When I was fourteen, my dad leased a horse for me for a month ($50, for you horse people out there). We didn't have a trailer, so I rode George home from the farm to our summer house in Vermont, where I kept him in a cow barn at a neighbor's house and rode him bareback every day. George was a huge, out of shape quarter horse, and I had to climb atop the hood of the car to get on his back. There was a lot of creative boredom in Vermont--my sisters and I read everything we could from the Greensboro library and concocted our own ginger ale (spicy! Exploding bottles!) and made face paint by grinding up rocks with other rocks. My sister was away the summer of George, and I remember one ride in particular (the visiting the neighbor's new baby trip where he got stung by a whole swarm of bees does not rank in the best column!) where I went down the dirt road and over Barr Hill on a dirt track where we cross-country skied in winter. There was an old apple orchard where we stopped for a rest, the smell of timothy grass and banks of Shire-worthy moss, hills like green-back bears, and when George jumped over a fallen log, it felt like flying.

BEST ADVICE: Make mistakes. Having studied music--which, like many arts, has a history of perfectionist pedagogy, I know that sometimes the mistakes are the most beautiful interpretations. Sometimes they're mistakes. Sometimes all the colors muddled together just doesn't look good and you end up with mud, but sometimes the mistakes are where the joy lives. Also, I love being a beginner, because it gives me permission to screw up, and with permission to screw up, I'll try jumping log to log and make it over the whole river in one breath. I seem to have lost my metaphor here, but what I mean to say is that fear of mistakes can keep you from ever leaving the ground. This works with kids, too--sometimes they have to do for the joy of doing, not because they're always striving for best, most perfect, strongest, fastest, winning. Those things are not always the most interesting or enduring.

I hadn't done much riding since George when my daughter decided she wanted to take lessons. Five years later, we have become crazy horse people, and we own a large pony/small horse who has dumped us in the dust because he's afraid of a noise, or he doesn't want to jump that crossrail, just enough times to remind us that it's a collaborative process, flying across the earth. When I'm afraid of mistakes, he knows the minute I come to collect him in the paddock, and he is nervous, too. Confidence begets confidence, as long as there are no scary blue tarps rustling unexpectedly in the wind...

Thanks, Gwendolen!

XOXO, Liz & Lisa

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan on March 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
I've read a couple of connected short story collections lately. Though When She Was Gone is not a short story collection, it will appeal to those of you who appreciate short stories, because of the unique way the story is told.

Linsey disappears from her home at 26 Sycamore Street one late summer morning just days before she's supposed to leave for college at Cornell. The people who live in the homes surrounding hers in the New Jersey neighborhood all have a story to tell. One or two saw her leave. One found the note she left after it fluttered away out of the mailbox. One heard her discussions with her boyfriend in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.

The different chapters are each told from the point of view of the neighbor in question, who each is also letting the reader into their own lives and secrets. The diverse points of view make each chapter a different discovery: some are elderly, some are children, some are other mothers, some are classmates. Gross deftly uses these narratives to move Linsey's story forward (Why did she leave? Where did she go? Will she come back?) while also telling the own character's story, and each ties in to the greater backdrop of suburban culture that is a prominent theme.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By StoneBarnReader on April 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
Gross has created a masterful novel, taking us intimately into multiple houses in a suburban neighborhood to figure out what happened to a teenager. Each character, from the eccentric music teacher to the imaginative young boy to the lonely mother, etc. is so different and isolated from each other even though they all live together on this block. Like Gross's Orphan Sister, When She was Gone, is a page turner, with a mystery at its spine, around which so many observations about human nature are conveyed in gorgeous prose. Makes you look closer at the people around you and the inner lives that they lead.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Oskwarek on April 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
In this inventive and captivating novel, Gwendolen Gross reveals the private lives and inner worlds of members of a small suburban community. With meticulously crafted language she tells the story of the disappearance of a college-bound girl and its impact on her family and neighbors. What makes this story compelling is that while the common thread is the missing girl, we are able to peek behind blinds, inside doorways, and into the minds of many different characters. Gross skillfully uses multiple points of view to reveal not only the characters' individual conflicts but also the relationships between people, many of whom are connected merely by physical proximity. "When She Was Gone" is a suspenseful and intimate look at the individuals, families and neighbors that make a community. The stunning prose and intricate plot make this book hard to put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Granfors TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An absolutely luminous novel with entire neighborhood of characters. Gwen Gross develops each one with such emotion and depth, the reader feels as if she lives among them.

The stories of the missing child are fairly common in literature today. All tug at our heartstrings and keep us up late for the suspense.

Linsey is about to leave for Cornell when she disappears.

What is special about WHEN SHE WAS GONE by Gwen Gross is the development of character. She takes us through the neighborhood, house by house, revealing the lives of the people, their small struggles and their huge conflicts, the sparkling reputation of the missing girl reflected in her neighbors' anecdotal evidence.

We are allowed into the minds and hearts of those who seem to be probable suspects, the weird old music teacher, the spurned love, the wild child in a set of twins, the nit-picking mother pack, the pretty boy barista who likes rough sex, and we make our choices as to which one has the most culpability.

At the same time, we learn of the ones who are not dangerous, but damaged. Little Geo, who prefers collecting things to socializing;Toby, the missing girl's worshipful young brother; the step-parent; the divorced parent; Abigail, the girl's mother, still grieving for a baby lost to crib death.

WHEN SHE WAS GONE is more than the story of a missing child. It is the story of separate lives in a community that prides itself in its dedication to all the children, when they have time for them anyway
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John C. on May 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has the most original format I've ever seen, since the mystery unfolds in a series of short story-like chapters, which are written in a highly literary style and each contain a clue or two about the mysterious disappearance of Linsey Hart, a local teenager who was soon to leave for college. We meet an elderly musician who is dying from colon cancer and plays his piano at all hours, a boy who makes artworks with bottle caps, the teen's younger brother who knows some of her secrets, and a diverse cast of other characters. While the writing was very good, I got frustrated at the very slow pace of the plot, which mainly revolved around a note the teen wrote that fell behind the fence and contained a clue that is almost revealed several times. Mainly, I kept reading to find out what happened to Linsey, but when I did, I was disappointed by the ending, and felt that I had been mining low-grade ore in the hope of finding a nugget of gold. Many secrets are revealed, but somehow, the characters didn't fully come to life for me. The overall feel of the book was like visiting an art museum and looking at elaborately rendered portraits of people, rather than meeting the actual people. My impression was the author fell in love with her brush strokes.
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