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Every Visible Thing: A Novel

Every Visible Thing: A Novel

4.0 24
by Lisa Carey

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Five years ago the eldest Furey son, Hugh, ran off into the night and never returned. His parents, estranged by grief, are trying to put the tragedy behind them after a long, exhausting, and fruitless search. His mother, recovering from an emotional breakdown, has lost herself in a new career; Hugh's father, having abandoned his faith and his position as a theology


Five years ago the eldest Furey son, Hugh, ran off into the night and never returned. His parents, estranged by grief, are trying to put the tragedy behind them after a long, exhausting, and fruitless search. His mother, recovering from an emotional breakdown, has lost herself in a new career; Hugh's father, having abandoned his faith and his position as a theology professor, now cares halfheartedly for their two remaining children. Left more or less to fend for themselves, ten-year-old Owen and fifteen-year-old Lena struggle to hold on to their brother's memory—an increasingly self-destructive obsession that gives rise to angel fantasies, drug use, quixotic quests, and dangerous experimentation that will ultimately force a damaged family to confront its past and find a future.

Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
… Carey is an affecting writer with a good eye for the emotional details of adolescence. Every Visible Thing is a dramatic reminder of just what a corrosive mixture grief and silence can be. By its conclusion, salvation remains a long way off for these ordinary people, but the promise of it hovers over them.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In her graceful, affecting fourth novel, Carey (Love in the Asylum) revisits themes from her previous books-family, tragedy, grief and resilience-with visceral drama and pathos. In the mid-'80s, on the outskirts of Boston, 15-year-old Lena and 10-year-old Owen Furey are coming of age in the aftermath of their older brother Hugh's disappearance. Two years on, Hugh is presumed dead, and the Furey parents have buried themselves in their work: mother Elizabeth as a medical student, father Henry as an editor of religious books. Left to their own devices, the Furey children flirt with self-destruction, giving flesh to the mythic symbolism of their last name. While Lena pursues a dangerous search for proof of Hugh's fate, tracking his movements through images from his old camera, Owen calls on Hugh as a protecting angel to help him deal with his stirring sexual attraction to best friend Danny (and with Danny's harsh reprisals). Though the novel suffers from an unwieldy structure, switching between Lena's first person and a third-person portrayal of Owen, the play between sections devoted to each child proves rewarding, suffused in lucid grief and delicate longings. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Carey (The Mermaids Singing) offers a powerful closeup of the Furey family beginning in the 1980s. Hugh Furey, 15, was the near-perfect child, adored by his parents and admired by his younger siblings. His sparkling personality and charm change dramatically, however, when he becomes involved in a disastrous romance that leads to his disappearance. Five years on, his parents have put this tragedy and their memory of Hugh behind them. But now 15-year-old Lena and ten-year-old Owen struggle with their loss-rebellious Lena feels she must pursue dangerous paths in her hunt for information about Hugh, while troubled Owen is hounded by hostile schoolmates. Reacting to these new family traumas, the aptly named Fureys falter and come close to unraveling. This intimate study of family dysfunction combines with an intense look at adolescence. Switching between first-person (Lena) and third-person (Owen) narration, Carey's compelling, dark, and frightening story does promise a glimmer of hope. Strongly recommended for all libraries. [Two of Carey's novels-In the Country of the Young and The Mermaids Singing-have been optioned for film.-Ed.]-Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Five years after the disappearance of their oldest son, Hugh, the Furey family is functioning, yet shattered. Parents Henry and Elizabeth live in the same house, but not in the same world. When Lena, 15, finds a cache of Hugh's undeveloped film, she masquerades as a boy and begins to skip school and hang out with the dangerous older crowd she identifies from his photos, with the hope of discovering what happened to him. Meanwhile, Owen, 10, is dealing with severe bullying issues at school. He becomes fixated on guardian angels, a topic his theologian father researched before he lost his job. As Lena's and Owen's lives threaten to implode, the Fureys must finally deal with their grief and strained relationships in order to survive. Carey's depiction of Lena's obsession and guilt about her beloved brother, and her yearning for resolution and absolution, drives the story. She has an intense desire to know one brother while remaining unaware of the depth and violence of the other's situation. Owen's problems illustrate how difficult it is for victims to talk about what is happening, even if support is offered.-Charlotte Bradshaw, San Mateo County Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A family reels when an angelic son vanishes, in Carey's heartfelt fourth novel. In less capable hands, the story of a family torn apart by a runaway teenager, especially one who returns as a guardian angel, could turn mawkish. Hugh Furey is 15 when he goes missing after attempting to visit his ex-girlfriend in rehab. Hugh had been making the '80s punk scene in Harvard Square instead of attending high school. His father, a professor of theology at Boston College, suspends work on a groundbreaking angels treatise to oversee the search for Hugh. His wife takes to her bed and turns over housekeeping and childcare for five-year-old Owen to their young daughter Lena. Five years later, Hugh is still missing. Dad has lost his post and is now an editor for a religious publisher. Mom is in med school. A mutual attraction binds Owen, now ten, to classmate Danny, who initiates sexual exploration, happened upon by Danny's mother. Now a pariah at school due to Danny's defensive queer-baiting, Owen malingers, missing weeks of fifth grade. Secluded in his room, he indulges his obsession with gravestone rubbings and angels-he recalls being rescued from electrocution by an angelicized Hugh. Tenth-grader Lena, talented, like Hugh, in photography, develops rolls of 35mm film shot by Hugh depicting his Harvard Square friends. She's determined to follow the trail her parents have seemingly abandoned. Disguising herself as a spiky-haired, combat-booted boy, she goes in search of drug-dealer Lionel, a regular in Hugh's photos. Enticed into the Ecstasy-popping and pot-smoking world of Sebastian, a conduit to Lionel, she reckons the cost, to Owen and herself, of her parents' shell-shocked obliviousness. Aftertransgressing the gender divide, virtually channeling Hugh and losing her virginity, Lena thinks she has found the key to Hugh's disappearance. Alternating between Owen's and Lena's points of view, Carey (Love in the Asylum, 2004, etc.) details the Fureys' disintegration and tentative steps toward rapprochement. Stark delineation of childhood's treacherous terrain.
Entertainment Weekly
“[P]rose that blossoms like a bruise, both aching and vivid . . . heartbreaking and, ultimately, redemptive. A-”
Associated Press
“Carey skillfully unfolds . . . a compelling, believable portrait of the confusion of adolescence.”
Associated Press Staff
“Carey skillfully unfolds . . . a compelling, believable portrait of the confusion of adolescence.”
“It’s impossible not to be swept along by the untidy, ultimately hopeful family drama.”
Washington Post Book World
“[B]racing insight and sensitivity...a dramatic reminder of just what a corrosive mixture grief and silence can be.”
Ayelet Waldman
“I read EVERY VISIBLE THING...late into the night, loath to put it down even to sleep...[A] remarkable feat.”

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Read an Excerpt

Every Visible Thing

A Novel
By Lisa Carey

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Lisa Carey
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0066212898

Chapter One



The first time I tried killing myself, nobody noticed. This was last year, when I was in the ninth grade. I took a whole package of Actifed, tiny white pills I had to push one at a time through the tinfoil backing. It was the only drug I could find in the medicine cabinet besides vitamins and Owen's inhaler. The thing is, I'm not sure why I did it, except that I had a test the next day in Ancient Civilizations that I hadn't studied for. It was an honors class. I used to get all As in grammar school, which was why I was allowed to take it. I'd never failed a test in my life. But I hadn't been doing my homework, and I'd barely taken notes in class. It had gotten to the point where just seeing the textbook in my bag made me chant you're dead you're dead you're dead, over and over in my mind, until I barely knew what the words meant, but they scared the shit out of me anyway. I took the pills at three in the morning with a bottle of ginger ale. All that happened was my vision went a little funny and then I threw up. By the time my parents woke up I was green and pasty-mouthed and still heaving. I didn't exactly announce what I'd done, so they thought I had the flu and let me stay home. My mother is in medicalschool, where she gets to pretend to be a doctor and has to stay over at the hospital about every other night. My dad used to be a theology professor at Boston College, where I was supposed to go someday because it would be half-free, but they fired him. Now he works for a publishing house downtown, editing religious books written by other people. It must be boring because he never talks about it. When Owen and I stay home sick, we do it alone.

For some reason that day, when they were gone, after my stomach settled and I had some toast, I decided to go through Hugh's stuff. I inherited his room. It's in the back of the house, far from my parents and Owen, near the sun porch and the back door and the kitchen. They gave me Hugh's room when I started high school, making a big show out of cleaning him out, not wanting me to feel like I was living with a ghost. They couldn't go all the way, though, and I found everything in the basement, in banker's boxes with his name written in black Magic Marker on the contents line.

I took a few things at a time, so they wouldn't notice. First it was his turntable and his rec-ords, which I listened to when the rest of them were asleep. My favorites were the Beatles and Prince, much easier to listen to than the Clash or the Sex Pistols. My brother's tastes seemed divided between normal music and the loud, screaming, unbearable stuff he must have thought was cool. I tried but couldn't stand those. Only boys, and the occasional tough, disturbed girl, listen to punk as if it is music.

I brought his books up next, sliding in between my Anne of Green Gables series and Gone with the Wind, Hugh's mauled copies of The Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man, The Brothers Karamazov. His Snoopy, with its loose neck and the fur gone gray. I even sneaked a few items of his clothing: a flannel shirt, black fatigues from the army-navy store, the leather jacket with snaps and a dozen zippers, unfathomably left behind. I couldn't wear these things without my parents recognizing them, so I kept them in my closet, hidden at the far edges behind the confirmation dress I never wore and my old blue toggle coat, which for some reason I refuse to let my mother send to Goodwill. At night, after my parents went to sleep, I would take out the jacket, slip it on over my flannel pajamas, and finish my homework with leather heavy as a warning on my shoulders. (I made up all my work for Ancient Civilizations. I didn't want things to get so out of control again.) In the tiny zippered breast pocket, I found a smashed, brittle plastic square with one squishy condom inside. This was disgusting, the thought of my brother stashing it in there. He had a girlfriend in the ninth grade, and I wondered if the condom was something he would have actually used, or just wishful thinking. It was kind of exciting after I got over the shock. No one had ever found this before; it was something only I knew. That my brother, at the age of fifteen, had walked around with the promise--or hope--of sex in his pocket. Though the date stamped on the edge of the plastic was from three years ago--apparently condoms expire, just like milk--I left it in there. I liked the idea of it wrapped in the satin lining, still waiting to be used.

It wasn't until this past summer that I found the film. It was in a box with other photo supplies--printing paper, bottles of chemicals, a metal can of compressed air. Hugh was obsessed with photography. He was the one who took pictures when I was little; my parents only ordered the school photos and took half a roll on Christmas and birthdays. When he was in high school, they let him convert the back bathroom with the broken toilet into a darkroom. He spent his weekends locked in a cube of red light, printing his photos onto eight-by-ten paper, hanging them on a clothesline to dry. There were only a few old photos in the box, mostly rolls of unpro-cessed film and envelopes full of plastic strips of negatives. It was hard to tell what the pictures were of, except . . .


Excerpted from Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Carey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Ayelet Waldman
“I read EVERY VISIBLE THING...late into the night, loath to put it down even to sleep...[A] remarkable feat.”

Meet the Author

Lisa Carey is the author of The Mermaids Singing, In the Country of the Young, and Love in the Asylum. She lived in Ireland for five years and now resides in Portland, Maine, with her husband and their son.

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Every Visible Thing 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
debbook More than 1 year ago
This was a very dark and dismal novel which I found in the bargain book section at B&N. The story is told from two characters, Lena and Owen, alternating chapters. Lena is obsessed with finding her brother or at least finding out who he was. She finds his old camera and lots of undeveloped film. She takes a photography class to learn to develop it herself. As she sees the places and people that Hugh shot, she seeks them out looking for answers. This leads her down a dangerous trail as she skips school, becomes involved in drugs, and searches for her identity. Owen is ten and struggling with his sexual development and feelings for his best friend Danny. Some of these chapters were sexually explicit uncomfortable as they occur between two young boys and did not seem necessary to the story. At this point, I was ready to put the book down. But I continued because I was intrigued by Lena's story. Owen's story improved from there and focused on him be ostracized from his peers and he begins to pay attention to his sister and start looking for his own answers to Hugh disappearance. I'm glad I stayed with the book. Though it was a melancholy story, it brought home the reality of what happens to a family when one of it's members is lost and what can happen if they then lose each other. Lisa Carey writes well though graphically at times but a tragic tale can not be sugar-coated. This is not a novel for the faint of heart, and not a light read but it has real depth and worth the emotional drain. http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that you just can't out down!! Each chapter is told alternately by the brother and sister of Hugh, who disappeared a few years earlier. They both 'use' Hugh in their minds to get thru the complications in their lives. This book was EXCELLENT!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It has often been said that 'children should be seen and not heard'. But Lisa Carey's book EVERY VISIBLE THING shows that children will be seen until they are heard! This all too true and difficult story is beautifully written about how children react when parents fall apart after the loss of another child. Parents seem to give themselves permission to fall apart with the unreasonable expectation that their other children will just wait around to grow up any further until the parents can cope again. The question of if there are angels or not is handled with grace and style. Carey has the voices of these two siblings drawn realistically and with heartbreaking sincerity. Great book that considers the children and the need for communication within families --especially in the most difficult and heartbreaking situations. Caustically and sympathetically written story at the same time. Wonderful read for everyone. Great for discussions!
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bookgrl28 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed EVERY VISIBLE THING. There is lots of striking images and the dynamic characters are very well drawn. It is a bit graphic in some parts but overall I would read it again.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was OK. It really was hard to keep up with the book. It was confusing how the author would change from one character to another, it made it difficult to feel what what going on. The ending to me was also disappointing. I bought the book because it was so inexpensive to buy. This book will now collect dust in my library. I am considering donating the book to a local book vendor.
DP925 More than 1 year ago
It's sad to see how this family reacts to the losing their son/brother. It was a little weird reading about the 11 yr old's sexual intimacy. It was a very different book from what I normally read but well written and enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mrstjl More than 1 year ago
Very touching story. I don't know what I would have done if I was in that position. It is a good book for young teenage girls. Almost everyone can learn a valuable life lesson from Every Visible Thing.
dancegirl More than 1 year ago
i read this book over my summer vacation and it was soooooooo great. it captivated my attention, and always kept me thinking and wanting to read more. It has become my favorite book :) READ THIS BOOK!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sugarpy18 More than 1 year ago
Very realistically written, she captures teen angst and the loss of a loved one just as they are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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John_Strife More than 1 year ago
An entertaining read about teenage angst, but ultimately I was a bit disappointed. There were many questions in my mind left unanswered, and the rushed ending was hardly satisfying. Still, this is a pretty interesting and at times very fun novel about the self-destruction of two young siblings and their oblivious parents. The prose is fairly unique, which lessens the chance of boredom for those who've read teen angst (or just Catcher in the Rye) hundreds of times. Despite the unimpressive ending, it's a good story by an equally good writer, and I'll recommend it to anyone who enjoys J.D. Salinger.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Another tearjerker to be sure, but also so much more. There is so much pain and wrong done in this family. The parents are so preoccupied with the loss of their oldest that their surviving children are left to fend for themselves. There is so much to learn from the experiences of the characters. I truly enjoyed reading it more than once of course.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book would be interesting, but I felt sick reading the detailed, graphic descriptions of little boys having sex. It's almost child porn. I couldn't even donate it to the library as I'd planned, because it's so disturbing. I have no problem reading about transgender, homosexuality, etc., but the little kids having sex was too much.