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Nobody Is Ever Missing: A Novel Paperback – July 8, 2014

3.1 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Ms. Lacey has written a serious, frequently brilliant novel with a sustained intensity that is rare in fiction. It's the most promising first novel that I've encountered this year.” ―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“[A] searching, emotionally resonant first novel…[Lacey's prose is] dreamy and fierce at the same time…Ms. Lacey's slim novel impressed me, and held me to my chair. There's significant talent at work here…"Nobody Is Ever Missing" gets so much right that you easily push past its small flaws. It's an aching portrait of a young woman doing the hard thing, "trying to think clearly about mixed feelings.” ―Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“This is how much I liked Catherine Lacey's debut novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing: I read it over a summer weekend, mostly transfixed, earmarking nearly every other page to identify perceptions or turns of phrase I might wish to return to . . . Nobody Is Ever Missing satisfies all my inchoate readerly impulses--including the primary one of getting out of my own skin and into someone else's--in a way that, say, Donna Tartt's more explicitly pitched The Goldfinch decidedly does not . . . Lacey is a very gifted writer and thinker, and if this is what post-wounded women sound like--diffident about the pain of being alive, funny and dead-on about the obstacles to being their best selves--I say bring 'em on.” ―Daphne Merkin, The New Yorker

“The premise begins simply enough: Elyria has unexpectedly left her husband. And yet the proceeding narrative introduces some of contemporary fiction's most complex personal introspection as Catherine Lacey--with the ease of a master--depicts a mind that may, or may not, be breaking down . . . Elyria hitchhikes, meets a handful of characters and thinks. And her ponderings--written in Lacey's consistently remarkable, urgent prose style--slowly unravel the layers of Elyria's discontent, revealing an expanse of universal anxiety and uncertainty. Her observations of the country and her ruminations on the past are simultaneously childlike in their wonder and astounding in their depth. Page after page, the novel strikes those rarely accomplished balances between action and interiority, comedy and bleakness, stream-of-consciousness and clarity. An uncomplicated plot written with honesty and linguistic deftness characterizes many of the world's great novels, including this debut. As the story concludes, Lacey does not assert any sense of closure because there are no lessons here, only a stunning portrait of, to paraphrase Doris Lessing, a woman going mad all by herself.” ―Tiffany Gibert, Time Out New York

“Lacey's wise and dazzling novel... is funny, not in a zany way, but in the audaciously morbid way a Coen brothers picture is funny.” ―Jennifer B. McDonald, Slate

“[A] laser smart, affecting, confounding, recalcitrant, infuriating, relentlessly stylish debut novel . . . Using short chapters to stop for breath, Lacey stacks clause upon clause with unerring rhythm, one of those glorious gifts that not everyone's been given and guided by that fabulous inner ear she teases out assonances and upends predictable constructions, modulating her phrases with repetitions, inversions, and tautly-strung wit, the novel propelled by sentences that wind their way inward before springing back out with renewed velocity.” ―Nathan Huffstutter, Electric Literature

“Catherine Lacey's debut novel explores that deeply human question... She holds the reader rapt for 244 pages, vividly situating us--entrapping us, really.” ―Laura Pearson, Chicago Tribune

“Catherine Lacey's remarkably immersive and morbidly humorous debut, Nobody Is Ever Missing, reminds one of Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar . . . As Elyria increasingly feels that she is ‘a human non sequitur' and perhaps ‘a form of radiation,' Lacey brilliantly captures her decline through long, winding sentences. Her descent is as harrowing as it is magnetic.” ―Vikas Turakhia, The Plain Dealer

“My copy of Catherine Lacey's debut novel is dog-eared to the degree of making all those folded corners pointless. The book is one large dog-eared page, because you don't have to flip far to find sentences and sentiments that make you pause and stare at the words, those simple marvels, and emit the sort of soft ‘oh' that usually comes after finishing a poem.” ―Scott Onak, The Rumpus

“Ever think of taking off and just going somewhere totally random? Lacey's debut introduces us to Elyria, who takes off from her stable American life to go live in New Zealand. It's a story that jumps out at you, and is full of the type of wisdom you just don't get from many debut novelists.” ―Jason Diamond, Flavorwire, 10 Must-Read Books for July

Nobody Is Ever Missing has the rare quality of being totally riveting but also very quiet. I read this book as fast as I would any thriller, but instead of high-speed chases there is a woman, mostly alone, sifting through her own thoughts and memories. The narrator, a young woman who has run away from her husband and family, is traveling through New Zealand for most of the book, but this isn't a traditional quest narrative--or maybe it is, but the quest is dark and personal and indirect and circuitous. Catherine Lacey's voice is something truly special; there is a wildebeest at the heart of this novel and you need to meet it.” ―Rachel Riederer, Guernica

“The self-consciousness of [Nobody Is Ever Missing], the sentences that offer contradictions inside themselves, will be related to by most any reader who seeks in reading the pleasure of self-recognition.” ―Brad Nicholson, Bookslut

“Lacey wisely chooses to structure the book using short chapters, which keeps the pacing swift . . . The short chapters have the shape and feel of vignettes, and they allow Elyria to move back and forth in time as she fills us in on the backstory that pushed her to leave . . . We, like her, are captivated by the descent, helpless to watch and wander along.” ―Jennine Capo Crucet, The L Magazine

“Catherine Lacey's virtuosic debut is a gutsy, lyric meditation on identity, love, transformation, and what it means to be free. It is a breathtakingly accomplished novel, and Catherine Lacey is a riveting new voice in contemporary fiction.” ―Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth

“A dense, subtle series of meditations on domestication, estrangement, wildness, and above all, loss and absence.” ―David Shields, author of How Literature Saved My Life and coauthor of Salinger

“Catherine Lacey has a magic voice like none I've ever read before. An unknown cousin of both David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, Nobody Is Ever Missing is a fabulously intelligent and witty book, and also a very moving one.” ―Rivka Galchen, author of American Innovations

“This book lives and breathes. It is a squall and Catherine Lacey is a force.” ―Amelia Gray, author of Threats

“A dark, precise jewel of a novel that does what every piece of writing should: cast a subtly new light on the world around us.” ―John Wray, author of Lowboy

“Catherine Lacey's voice is wholly unique, somehow managing to be both a challenge and a relief at the same time. Nobody is Ever Missing is one of my favourite books of the year, a journey to the other side of the world I won't soon forget.” ―Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

About the Author

Catherine Lacey was named a Granta New Voice of 2014 and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow for fiction writing in 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, Guernica, Believer, McSweeney's Quarterly, and other magazines. She was born in Mississippi.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374534497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374534493
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
“I was a human non sequitur—senseless and misplaced, a bad joke, a joke with no place to land.”

This novel starts with a woman leaving home. You’ll like it if you can engage with the only main character, twenty-eight-year-old Elyria (named after a town in Ohio that her mother never visited). She abruptly leaves her comfortable life in Manhattan, and her job as a CBS soap opera writer, and her husband, a math professor. They had both experienced a similar tragedy that stripped their souls, and for that they bonded—and, for that, Elyria couldn’t take it any more, after six years.

“I want to be that person, part of a respectable people, but I also want nothing to do with being people, because to be people is to be breakable…”

Elyria takes off for New Zealand, without even giving a heads up to her husband. She is seeking, searching, for her truest self, and attempting to unscramble the cognitive dissonance between her outer and inner selves. She senses what she calls the wildebeest in her, caught between two impulses of wanting to be here in love and wanting to walk away like it never happened. Her way of thinking is often circuitous and epigrammatic, such as “…and it seems the wildebeest was what was wrong with me, but I wasn’t entirely sure of what was wrong with the wildebeest.” This strain of opposites and paradox filled out Elyria’s psyche and also made her feel shriveled.

There isn’t really a plot, but there is certainly a journey—a journey through many remote, farmland areas of New Zealand as Elyria tempts fate by hitchhiking, and the inner stream of consciousness that is her thoughts and feelings.
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Wow. Just, wow. I never buy modern literature, and even less often do I pick up an author of whom I know nothing about, but this book is amazing. That it takes place in New Zealand hooked me, but the country itself is used so sparingly, a handful of names and sheep, just enough to give you the sense of a place as far from the main character, Elyria's, jumping off point in New York as she can get. I've never been able to connect with the "finding yourself" cliché, stories about men or about women with sass and energy who seek out adventure, but Lacey's protagonist is an antagonist to herself. She is lost and confused, self-obsessed and self-abusing and the last thing she wants is adventure. The subtle feminism in the narrative was a breath of fresh air. It exists but is never named, from the men in her life who view her as a possession (or as her Husband's possession) to the several women who warn her as she hitchhikes across the island to, "...stay away from those blokes." Elyria escapes them all, but in the end, she can't escape herself.

So well done, this book is just too good to describe. The ending left me feeling a bit disappointed, but taken as part of the whole story, it was perfect. I read the book twice the same week that I got it and still have trouble believing that this is Lacey's first novel. I eagerly await her second.
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So I was reading this when I was going through a very difficult time in my life and it was almost a bit corrupting. But I loved the way it was written. It was almost a bit Camus style, but definitely not to the extent of being anywhere The Stranger. Fascinating read.

Let me also mention that I absolutely abhorred reading when I was younger and am nearly unable to get into any book even now. This one really took me by storm.
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Format: Paperback
Writing in a bold first-person voice, Catherine Lacey has made an auspicious debut with her first novel, NOBODY IS EVER MISSING.

Here is a harrowing portrait of a young woman named Elyria, who is struggling to escape from herself and her past into an impossible state of mere “presence” --- beyond identity --- that doesn’t involve any sort of interpersonal engagement or contingency. To achieve this conceptual state of grace, she leaves her comfortable apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that she shares with her husband Charles, a mathematics professor. Without warning him or anyone else, she flies to New Zealand to find Werner, a poet she once met who told her she could stay with him should she ever find herself on his home turf.

Upon landing, and carrying only what she could fit in her backpack, along with a scrap of paper with Werner’s scribbled address, Elyria sets out hitchhiking in search of something that she can barely define. As she puts it, “It seemed to take a reason to be in a hurry and I didn’t have any reasons, I knew, and maybe that was it, maybe I had come to New Zealand to find a reason in this quiet country where everyone was happily waiting on almost nothing, to wait with them until a reason found me or I found a reason.”

As she travels around New Zealand, sleeping in hostels, strangers’ homes, parks and the occasional gardening shed, Elyria is forced to examine the events of her past that have led her to this desperate attempt at escape. At the root of her despair is the suicide of her deeply loved adopted sister, Ruby, the “renegade teenage genius.” Ruby, as it turns out, worked as an assistant to Charles, and Elyria and Charles met at the police station the day of Ruby’s death.
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