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He's Gone

He's Gone

3.5 48
by Deb Caletti

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From National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti comes an intensely gripping story about love, loss, marriage, and secrets—perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Anna Quindlen.
“One of the best books I’ve read all year.”—Barbara O’Neal, author of The Garden of Happy Endings


From National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti comes an intensely gripping story about love, loss, marriage, and secrets—perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Anna Quindlen.
“One of the best books I’ve read all year.”—Barbara O’Neal, author of The Garden of Happy Endings

“What do you think happened to your husband, Mrs. Keller?”
The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.
As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.
“A thought-provoking and moving exploration.”—New York Times bestselling author Erica Bauermeister

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest from National Book Award finalist Caletti (for Honey, Baby, Sweetheart) is an all-in-one-sitting affair. Dani Keller, saddled with an abusive husband and bland suburban neighborhood, leaves her ugly marriage and pretty house. Her exit route is an affair with sympathetic neighbor Ian, which leads to a new life on a houseboat on Seattle's Lake Union. Now married to Ian, the promise of her new life is locked in: a new neighborhood with color and vibrancy, a software company for her hus-band to run, and a sailboat named The New View. One fine morning, Dani wakes up and Ian is gone. From here, Caletti constructs a whodunit with all its attendant police interviews and clue-chasing. Has someone hurt or killed Ian? Did he do this himself? Was it a frantic flight to a new country or a new identity? The author expertly shifts focus from the nitty-gritty of how to find the guy towards a greater investment in probing the psychology of human relationships. Caletti solves the mystery in the end, but more riveting and of greater depth is her second conclusion, that you bring your same self wherev-er you go. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
YA veteran and National Book Award finalist Caletti (The Story of Us, 2012, etc.) makes a striking adult debut with this tale of a husband's mysterious disappearance. When Dani Keller wakes up with a pounding headache after too much wine and a couple of Vicodin at a tense party at husband Ian's software company, she isn't terribly surprised not to find him next to her. She vaguely remembers an argument the night before, and Ian is the punishing sort who seethes in silence or absents himself when she's displeased him. The couple met when married to others--angry, abusive Mark and party-throwing, hard-drinking, free-spending Mary--and the resultant divorces scandalized their affluent Seattle suburb. Now they're married and living on a houseboat on Lake Union; her daughter, Abby, likes Ian well enough, but Kristen and particularly Bethy have never forgiven Ian for leaving their mother and bitterly blame Dani. Indeed, Bethy accuses her hated stepmother of doing away with Daddy, and the worst of it is, Dani can't deny it with total conviction. As Ian's absence lengthens into weeks, her memories slowly paint a devastating portrait of two damaged people who clutch at each other for rescue but soon discover that their problems are deeper than unsatisfying marriages. Ian will never be successful enough for his hypercritical father, and Dani spends her life trying to make people who mistreat her feel better. She's never had the courage to be alone, until Ian's disappearance leaves her sick with fear and remorse. Could she have been angry and wasted enough to do him harm? Though the opening pages seem to promise a suspense novel--and the close delivers a well-executed plot twist--this is in essence the story of a woman's growing self-knowledge, perfectly executed at an appropriately measured pace. Caletti softens the stark message that love doesn't necessarily change anything with her compassion and understanding for Ian as well as Dani. Well-written, strongly characterized and emotionally complex fiction.
From the Publisher
"Caletti makes a striking adult debut with this tale of a husband's mysterious disappearance. . . . Well-written, strongly characterized and emotionally complex fiction." ---Kirkus Starred Review

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


Caletti / HE'S GONE


I used to imagine it sometimes, what would happen if one day I just didn’t come home. Not that I ever considered running off— I could never actually do that, even if I occasionally had that fantasy about driving south and checking in to some hotel. Someplace with bathrobes, for sure. I love those. But, no, the thought was less about escape and more about some cruel intervention of fate. What if, say, the clichéd bus hit me as I crossed the clichéd street? The Mack truck. Whatever it was, something terrible would happen and my family would have to return home to find all the daily pieces of my interrupted life. My husband would see my cup of coffee, half finished, a curve of my lipstick on the brim. My mother would see my flannel pajamas with the Eiffel Towers on them in the laundry basket and the ChapStick on my nightstand. My book would be on the bed, open to the place I’d left off, and my hair would still be entwined in my brush. There would be my really expensive wrinkle minimizer, which honestly didn’t minimize much of anything, and my phone charger still plugged into the wall. This is how it would look, I would think. This stuff here.

Whenever I had to get on a plane, I played that game in my head, too. I worried about what people might find afterward, at my house. You know, if we went down in a fiery ball, wearing our yellow flotation devices with the helpful little whistles attached. Does anyone else do this? Fixate on impossible and pointless mental puzzles? I don’t know. Flying used to be fun, but after 9/11 I did this stupid thing where I would wonder if I should have hidden certain stuff before I left home. Not that there would be much to hide—I’m not guilty of too many things. But I’d worry about those few old love letters, the ones I’d kept from the early days with my first husband, which Ian would have hated to discover. And that half bottle of Vicodin from that root canal, which I’d kept in case I was hit with some emotional crisis I couldn’t handle. Oh, and that red lace thong-thing that Ian gave me one Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what he was thinking. If I never came home, my daughter might see it and think I actually wore it. That particular mental image might scar the poor girl for the rest of her life.

That’s pretty much been the extent of my secrets. I guess you could say my conscience works overtime. And while I never actually moved the red lace thong or hid the pill bottle before I traveled, I did wipe up spilled stuff in the microwave and remove that big slab of fluff from the dryer vent that wasn’t supposed to be in the dryer vent. I made sure my house was clean. Tidying up my domestic crimes so no one would find out that I made messes and couldn’t keep my appliances under control, which is probably some home version of the wear-clean-underwear-in-case-of-an-accident idea.

These head games—I guess they’re you, in your small way, trying to psych out the here-gone-ness of life, or maybe they’re about the awareness that comes after a certain age of inevitable grief hovering nearby. Or maybe they’re just about wanting to be good, even in death. Avoiding humiliation even when you’re stone-cold gone. I don’t know. But what I do know, what I’ve thought about since that day, is that it was always me I imagined suddenly missing. I never imagined finding anyone else’s pill bottles or the slippers that had formed to their feet, now ditched under the bed. I didn’t think about discovering someone else’s breakfast dishes or the change from their pocket left out on the dresser, their presence sitting right next to their absence.

That morning, well, the objects around me have no more significance than they did the day before. It seems wrong, doesn’t it? His reading glasses on the nightstand don’t send me some big message. His water glass doesn’t tell me the things I should know. I’d been dreaming—I was up high somewhere and I was scared and there was some kind of pounding noise, but when I open my eyes, I realize it’s a dream trick and that the sound is real. It’s outside my window. Our boat must have gotten loose or something, and it’s banging against the dock.

I lie there, catching up to the facts of my life as one does before first getting up, looking at the white of the curtains and trying to guess what the weather’s like. Dim white, likely cloudy. In Seattle, cloudy is a good prediction no matter what the season. I don’t check to see whether he’s there next to me or not. I guess I just assume he’s there, because it’s still early. We have one of those astronaut-foam-type mattresses, where you can thrash around and the other person won’t even notice. I think the advertisement shows a glass of water, which sits still and undisturbed on the bed in spite of some guy jumping next to it. Anyway, the dog can get up there, and you won’t even know it until you open your eyes and find him staring right at you.

I roll over. I’m trying to remember as best as I can. I recall expecting to see the hill of his shoulders turned away from me, his tidy black hair on the pillow. But I see only the empty bed next to me. Wide, empty, glorious space, and I stretch my legs over to his side and I’m happy about it, that space. I listen, trying to determine if he’s home. There’s that stupid banging, but the house seems still. Maybe he went for a run, or to work, even though it’s Sunday, which wouldn’t be unusual. Yeah: I realize there are no footsteps, or the sound of the toaster lever being pushed down, or the hum of television voices. He’s likely gone, and I’m relieved. I’m sure I’m not the only wife who feels that—the small relief at his absence. I love him very much, I do; but the house to yourself . . . No need for conversation or company or the press of his presence . . . Ah—coffee in bed, the thrill of aloneness, and a couple of Oreos on a paper towel for breakfast—bliss.

But first there’s that banging.

I get up and walk downstairs. God, I feel it then, the banging in my own head, a nasty throb from too much wine at that horrible party the night before. BetterWorks, Ian’s software company, had released a new product, something that would change the way we share large video files. I don’t really know the details. I should, but I don’t. I want to understand it all, but my mind has its own instant off switch that’s tripped by lengthy explanations, instruction manuals, and rules to board games read aloud. I have a college education, but, I swear, the minute someone wants to enlighten me about how a fax works or how to play hearts, the mental doors slam shut.

The party was one of those swanky affairs, held in the beautiful lobby of the BetterWorks offices on Queen Anne Hill. The night was all shiny black behind those high, high glass windows, and the city sparkled below us. The Space Needle was right there, in all its George Jetson–­Tomorrowland glory. Ian’s partner, Nathan Benjamin, was at the party, and I like Nathan. I liked him even before I met him years ago, because he has those two first names, which makes him sound friendly. But the room was full of other people, too, of course—programmers and project managers and investors and investors’ wives, eating fancy little foods off tiny napkins and making witty conversation, and later in the evening the party spilled over to the wide, damp lawn of Kerry Park, which lays adjacent to BetterWorks. All night I pretended not to be shy, even though I’d rather have been home eating popcorn and watching the Travel Channel. I kept pulling at my hem, because Ian had bought me this tight black dress and asked me to wear it and I was mad at myself for agreeing. A Band-Aid would have covered more and cost a lot less. I had heels on, and the floor was slippery, and I kept thinking of the way my sister, Amy, and I used to roller-skate in our garage when we were kids, inching our way around by clutching the workbench and then the bicycles and then the lawn mower.

Reasons for too much wine, right there.

“Oh, no, Poll. Pollux, boy. He didn’t let you out?” My Pollux, my sweet black mutt, he’s getting old. He has to be taken outside the minute you wake up, poor guy. I wipe up the puddle. The thrill of unexpected alone time gives way to irritation. It’s him I’m irritated with. Ian. Overlooking my, our, sweet old dog, who now looks ashamed. The pee requires practically half of a roll of paper towels, and there’s that banging and my pounding head.

I step over my heels, which have been abandoned by the door. What a night. I can’t remember ditching them there, or even coming home and getting into bed, to tell you the truth. This isn’t normal for me, I should also say. I rarely have more than a glass of wine, two at the most. I’ve been truly drunk maybe only twice in my life, once way back in high school with Tommy Truello and wine in a box. We drank it before going to dinner at the Velvet Turtle restaurant on our way to the homecoming dance. I was spinning and sick the rest of the night. It scared me. I don’t like to lose control.

Pollux recovers his dignity and trots behind me as I open the door to the back deck. The front end of our small sailboat has come loose, and it’s slamming into the dock with each wave of the lake. I’m glad Ian isn’t here to see it. He’d be pissed. I kneel down; I make a couple of grabs for the boat before catching it, and then I examine it for scratches. It looks okay. I even run my hand along its surface, in case there’s something I can’t see but he’ll surely notice. I was the one to tie it down when we came back in from our sail Friday evening, so it’ll be my fault that the rope hasn’t been secured properly. Narrow miss. He’ll never know, and I’m glad. Ian doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes, and he’s not particularly patient when anyone else does.

He’ll never know I was out here in my robe, either. He’d have an issue with that, as crazy as it sounds. He’s possessive, and it gets irritating. From the way he acts, you’d think the sight of me would draw in the crowds of drooling men out there on their boats. My mom robe, with the bleach stain on the front and the Kleenex in my pocket, is sexy as hell, and all of them will be lining up for sure, just waiting to get a glimpse of me wrapped in terry cloth. Not a big thrill, I promise you. Maybe our neighbor, old Joseph Grayson, might think so, but he’s stoned half the time.

It is a cloudy morning, but they’re the kind of clouds that are rushing off as if they have better things to do. The sun is fighting its way out. I tie the boat down and I’m struck by how beautiful it is on the lake. It hits you sometimes like that, and so I stand there and take it all in. After we’d been married for two years and Abby had graduated and headed to the UW dorms, we moved to Lake Union from The Highlands, that neighborhood on the other side of the bridge that held so much of our tangled history. We (well, Ian) bought our large houseboat at the end of the dock. Whenever I say houseboat to people who aren’t from the city, they think we drive it around. I have to explain that it’s not a boat but a floating home, like in Sleepless in Seattle, only Meg Ryan had better hair than I do. Ian has better hair than Tom Hanks, but Pollux has better hair than all of us, and he’s so humble about it, too.

The view from our home is similar to the one from Ian’s office up on Queen Anne Hill, but at the houseboat it’s spread out in front of us rather than seen from above. Lake Union, the Space Needle, various boats chugging past, seaplanes landing—you feel as if the city is yours out there, that you belong to it, and it to you. I never want to live anywhere else, Ian said once. I could die here and be happy. I knew what he meant. It feels so great right at this moment, even after wiping up pee and with a bad headache and with the feeling that things had gone wrong again between Ian and me the night before. I still feel mostly good, because some ducks paddle past, and then so do a pair of kayakers. The woman in the back waves and I wave, too, and I breathe in and notice that the daffodil bulbs in the pots on the deck are coming up, little arrowheads of green.

I decide against going back to bed. I put a pot of coffee on. Ian must have been in a rush to get out of here this morning, I think, because he hasn’t even made any coffee, and Ian needs his coffee. I also think this: He could be out at Louisa’s right now, bringing us home a pair of foamy lattes and some raspberry muffins, and if he shows up with that fabulous white bag and two cardboard cups, I’ll just consider this batch of French Roast my coffee appetizer. So the pot burbles and I pour Pollux his same old brown breakfast that he’s so thrilled about every single day, and I take that perfect first cup of the morning onto the deck, along with a couple of aspirins. I sit on one of the Adirondack chairs we have out there. I smell the arrival of Northwest spring, and the smell of bacon cooking somewhere, and the smell of gasoline drifting over water. All three of those smells I love. Pollux trots out again, with water droplets on his beard. He squints into the early sun and looks out over the lake like the patron saint of sailors he’s named for. What a good boy.

I sip that coffee, and the steam rises up in the coolness of morning, and Pollux lays his old self down in a spot of sun. I have one of those moments where you simply feel grateful. My headache is giving up, and the irritation is leaving, too, maybe swept away in the first exhilarating rush of caffeine. A sense of peace takes its place. A rare moment of peace, the kind you take in and vow to hold on to but never can. Those moments are gone at the first traffic jam or botched bank statement, in spite of your best intentions. But it’s there now.

I have no idea is what I’m saying. What I keep trying to say.

I have no idea that my husband has vanished.


Meet the Author

Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and a National Book Award finalist whose books—Honey, Baby, Sweetheart; The Queen of Everything; The Secret Life of Prince Charming—are published and translated worldwide. She lives with her family in Seattle.

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He's Gone: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
He's Gone is a very well written book about the consequences of our actions. In the days that Ian is missing, Dani reflects on their relationship.  How it began, where it began, how it developed into the marriage they have today and she is a bit disappointed in the truths she forces herself to face.  Disappointed in herself and the pain she has caused others.  But she is also desperate to remember what happened when they got home from that party Saturday night.  As a reader you can sense the frenzy of panic building in Dani with each day that Ian is missing.  It just keeps building and building until the truth comes out.  Sometimes in books like this the conclusion is a bit of a disappointment, but I was really satisfied with the conclusion of He's Gone.  Bottom line, you may or not be familiar with Deb Caletti as a YA author, but I think with He's Gone, Caletti has given us a solid debut into Womens Fiction.  If you are looking for a book to immerse yourself into this weekend, then He's Gone is definitely worth your attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So disappointed. I was really hoping for a thriller but found myself skipping throught the never-ending analogies just to get to the core story. I forced myself to keep reading to get to what turned out to be a very anticlimatic ending... rerund please
Krismar More than 1 year ago
On the surface, He's Gone by Deb Caletti appears to be about a missing man. A husband (Ian), whom seems to disappear into thin air. Underneath the surface, the reader finds the wife (Dani), drowning in despair, searching for answers to what happened to her husband, and ultimately, deciphering her own responsibility in his disappearance. Caletti dissects the traditional and non-traditional aspects of a marriage, unveiling even the most disturbing pieces. The storyline jumps from present day to the past, in order to get an image of Dani's relationship with Ian. Caletti writes with emotion and keeps the intrigue fresh, as the reader tries to determine what did happen to Ian.
LucyTS More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.  It is not meant to be another Gone Girl.  There's a bit of a mystery but it is not a thriller.   It is a beautifully written book about a woman's deep insight into her life, her marriage; the good and bad.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very surprised that people bought this book thinking it was a "Mystery." I took this out from the library and it was not in the mystery section. But if that wasn't enough of a clue, just reading the book jacket told informed the reader that the novel would be about a woman, after finding her husband missing, reflecting on their very complicated relationship.  So take this as a warning--this is not a MYSTERY, but a relationship story. With that in mind, Iloved this book.Could not put it down. I find the best stories are about complicated, flawed characters and your ability to still identify with them.Deb Caletti did a good job of getting inside the mind of an unhappy woman looking to be rescued. I look forward to her next book.
zucchiniqueen More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this story and the writing.
loveagoodbookTW More than 1 year ago
this book reminded me of gone girl in a way. it was interesting and an exciting plot right up until the very end! loved the characters, an easy suspenseful read. thouroughly enjoyed it!
Carshanleia05 More than 1 year ago
Very good writing I would def read another book by this author. Finished this in a few days. I loved her style of writing and detail. Read this on my Nook, I highlighted several quotes and paragraphs. For Example; "It can get exhausting trying to measure up. You start to feel as if you're on a perpetual job interview." This is a paragraph explaining how the main character feels about her husband. Also, "Blessed books-they're a place to be alone and no one else can come in." And my favorite, " Maybe you get to a certian age and it hits you. You're so damn sick of being nice and polite."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, a definitely page turner. I will be checking out other books written by this author. Well written....
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
It's a Sunday morning like any other Sunday morning. Or so Dani Keller thought until she realized Ian wasn't in bed with her. She gets up, looks for a note and quickly assumes he went out to grab the breakfast, but soon minutes turn to hours and hours turn to days. Dani realizes, He's Gone.  Dani contacts the local police station to aid her in her search for her husband. As they begin their investigation, Dani begins to reflect her relationship with Ian. She recalls how they first met, how their relationship started and what lead up to the last time she remembers seeing him.  The novel begins with Dani talking about a fantasy of just leaving--not that she would. I'm sure a fantasy many people have had for a fleeting moment or two. He's Gone questions what if the person we love the most was just gone.  The novel is a first person narrative (Dani) realizes her husband, soulmate well, He's Gone. As she and the police search for Ian, she reflects on their former marriages, their getting together and the outcome of their life together--the good and the hidden. As more time passes, the deeper she plunges into her own psyche and begins to see a truth she doesn't want to see.  I couldn't relate to Dani Keller, as a woman on her second marriage or her past, but her thoughts...made her so human. A character fully flawed. I connected. I felt for her, I wanted resolution for her, but then the further I read I began to be afraid of where the answers may lead. The story moves along at a pretty good pace, but you need to pay attention to all of a sudden you are in a flashback.  I really loved how I got to know Dani and all the characters through Dani, how she saw everything. I had no idea how the story would end. There are subtle suggestions along the way, but you are always guessing! This is a great book that literally lets you into the protagonists head! I loved the honesty of what a relationship could look like for two people who had an affair. This is one book you won't want to put down, you will need to know what happened to Ian Keller! I highly recommend He's Gone! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
On it's surface, this is a story about a woman whose husband disappears.  However, beneath the plot itself is a taut, psychological study of marriage, adultery, and a marriage gone wrong.  The writing is realistic and insightful, and if you can't recognize yourself somewhere in it, I venture to say you're not being completely honest with yourself.  This is an excellent book by a fine writer.
JacqueNY 10 months ago
This was such a good book! I stayed up late last night just to finish it. It was very similar to "Girl on the Train" with the suspense and foggy memory. It delved into marriage and our relationships so deeply.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Omg, this was such a bore. It was a total waste of money.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book hard to put down once I started it. It kept me guessing until the end. It also made me think about how people get caught up in toxic relationships and can never seem to escape that realm, the cycle keeps repeating itself.
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Arlene70AL More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting book about a relationship and how it effected many family members and friends. It seems like a mystery but is really more about the consequences of the relationship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was a pretty good book. it kept my attention.
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