Wednesday, June 6, 2018

When We Disappear

When We Disappear by Lise Haines
Unbridled Books: 6/5/18
eBook review copy; 304 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781609531478

When We Disappear by Lise Haines is a highly recommended novel about a disintegrating family.

It is 2007 and Mona's family has fallen on hard times. Her father, Richard, lost his job and now has left his family (Liz, his wife, and daughters Mona, 17, and Lola, 3) in Illinois to go to New Jersey for a new job. Now Liz, a sculptor, needs to curtail her art to work to support the girls. Lola is young, but Mona is old enough to resent her father leaving without saying goodbye. But then, Mona stopped listening to her father's stories years ago. Now he sends money, but it is never enough. He sends postcards to Lola and letters to Mona. Mona lives through her photography, starts and affair with an older photographer, and rejects her father's stories.

The narrative switches between chapters from Mona and Richard's points-of-view. We know how both characters feel and what they are both experiences. We see the whole family falling apart, struggling, yet not openly talking to each other and telling the truth about what is going on in all their lives. Part of Mona's anger and resentment toward her father goes back years ago to an incident, an accident, that happened when she was with her father and something they never discussed with her mother.

The writing is excellent in When We Disappear, and Haines captures both Mona's and Richard's individual inner voices with perfection. Both Mona and Richard are well-developed characters and we can clearly see their individual efforts to endure their pain and how they are trying to cope with their situations. Mona's photography helps sustain her and she tries to be strong for her mother and Lola. Richard is hurting more than he is admitting. This is a very emotional novel, however, it is difficult to see these wounded struggling people close themselves off from each other for much of the book and not sharing the reality of what they are all going through.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Unbridled Books.

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