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Miss Me When I'm Gone: A Novel
     

Miss Me When I'm Gone: A Novel

3.3 3
by Philip Stephens
 

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Read Philip Stephens's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

"A lavishly written, vividly imagined, and wholly compelling work of fiction...I was spellbound. Often, in fact, I was in awe."
-Tim O'Brien

After years of indie-label exile, folk singer Cyrus Harper returns to Apogee, Missouri, to tend to his mother. But the musical

Overview

Read Philip Stephens's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

"A lavishly written, vividly imagined, and wholly compelling work of fiction...I was spellbound. Often, in fact, I was in awe."
-Tim O'Brien

After years of indie-label exile, folk singer Cyrus Harper returns to Apogee, Missouri, to tend to his mother. But the musical and haunted world of his past is morphing into just another strip of middle America, corrupted with pawn shops, meth labs, Clear Channel radio, and-if Cyrus's brother has his way-a golfer's paradise. As news of a murderess in the woods confounds the memories of his sister gone missing long ago, this prodigal son is drawn deeper into the cave- riddled realm of stalwarts and misfits he knew in his youth. What he discovers there will change everything.

A phantasmagoric tale of American music set during the crucible of its changing industry, Miss Me When I'm Gone plumbs our storied melodies for their essential purpose-to mine the soul for the longing, the passion, the love and rage that drive us.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Music writer and poet Stephens (The Determined Days) turns out a debut novel that reads like a murder ballad as it evocatively chronicles folk singer Cyrus Harper's return home to Apogee, Mo., an Ozark town ravaged on one side by meth and on the other by Cyrus's brother, Isaac, a real estate developer looking to turn their childhood homestead into a resort. Battling the DTs and the same propensity his sickly mother has for seeing "hog-eyed men" and holding conversations with the dead, Cyrus searches for his sister and childhood singing companion, Saro, whose voice "suited tunes of botched love, misdeeds, and murder." She vanished years ago, but reports of a strange woman roaming the woods stoke hope in Cyrus. Little does he know that the woman is clearing a path of destruction that would make Lizzie Borden blush. Though some readers will find the material stretched too thin, others will appreciate Stephens's determination to comprehend our darkest natures and motivations, a mission accomplished with a rueful swagger. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A compelling and insightful depiction of not just the land and what haunts it, but of human desire . . . Stephens has made this part of the Ozarks an underdog we can get behind and root for. It resonates out of the pages like an old folk song."
-Noah Homola, The Kansas City Star

"Miss Me When I'm Gone is a lavishly written, vividly imagined, and wholly compelling work of fiction. Philip Stephens has an unfailing ear for the rhythms (and subtle treacheries) of human speech, which gives this book its unusual immediacy and power, as if the reader is eavesdropping on the life-or- death conversations of travelers on a train. I was spellbound. Often, in fact, I was in awe."
-Tim O'Brien

"A melodic, heart-aching read."
-Oxford American

"Lost and living by their wits, Philip Stephens' wise and foolish people drift along the hardscrabble edges of America, some trying to escape the past, some to reclaim it. Miss Me When I'm Gone mixes the barbed language of Denis Johnson with the eternal verities of roots music. This is a rich and beautiful debut."
-Stewart O'Nan

"Philip Stephens is an uncommon writer: lyrical, frank, gothic by turns, his prose draws us into uncharted worlds and minds. He transforms small-town Missouri into a mythical landscape, peopled by lonely misfits of Faulknerian proportions. Miss Me When I'm Gone is a novel you will never forget."
-Claire Messud

"[A] many-layered, spirited debut . . . Stephens' voice has the clarity of an aged banjo, and resonates like a catchy sing-along."
-Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

"Philip Stephens knows a lot-about music, religion, the great midwest, life in a small town. What he knows the most about, however, is the plain old human heart. At various times throughout this elegant, moving first novel, he wrote scenes that broke mine, because I had come to care so much for the people I found in these pages. Stephens is a special writer, and this is a special book. I was sorry when it ended."
-Steve Yarbrough "[In] Philip Stephens's rich debut novel . . . the magic realism of Garcia Marquez or a Vargas Llosa operates in a setting that evokes Twain, Faulkner, and O'Connor . . . in a river of song flowing beneath the Ozarks."
-Michael Ray Taylor, Chapter 16

"A gripping novel . . . speckled with colorful and amusing characters that add levity even as they propel the story . . . I recommend Miss Me When I'm Gone to anyone who is unafraid of facing an honest story that takes you deep into the world of struggling musicians, desperate mothers, meth addicts, sinful preachers, and an array of successes and failures that make up the realistic characters Stephens has created."
-Michael Carey, Neworld Review

Acclaim for The Determined Days: Poems by Philip Stephens

"Stephens has a realist fiction writer's flair for scene, speech, and character, and the incidents in his poems are as all-to-humanly true as those in a good John O'Hara short story...An excellent first collection."
-Booklist

"Read as a whole-as they should be-the cumulative effect of this truly accomplished collection is powerful, disturbing, and authoritative. I am filled with admiration for Mr. Stephens's work."
-Anthony Hecht

"A poet for the people, an accessible writer whose work fuses the beauty of Robert Frost with the conviction of Walt Whitman."
-Kansas City Star

Kirkus Reviews

In this murky novel, two tormented characters, on separate quests, find the going rough.

Old-time country music is Cyrus Harper's lifeblood, inherited from his mother Ruth, a fiddler and singer until her husband found religion and forbade secular music. That didn't stop Cyrus and his sister Saro from singing together at gigs in their hometown of Apogee, in the Missouri Ozarks, until she mysteriously disappeared at age 19. Cyrus moved to San Francisco, hoping to find her. The guitarist and singer/songwriter produced one album full of songs of deep gloom. Now more than a decade has passed, Saro is still missing, and Cyrus is drinking heavily; she was his muse. He gets a call from his brother Isaac, a developer who never left Apogee; Ruth is near death. Cyrus returns home, still hoping Saro will show up. His point of view alternates with that of a woman called Margaret Bowman, who is armed and dangerous. Once married to a junkie, they had two kids. The junkie, now dead, killed their small son; Margaret did time as his accomplice. She has skipped parole and is passing through Apogee to retrieve her daughter Madeline from her in-laws. It's not a rest stop; she will blow the head off a would-be rapist, a high-school football player, and then kill his three harmless buddies, burying them in the woods. A hunt ensues, but Margaret escapes and reaches Madeline's house, then decides to leave her be, thus calling her mission into question. Her role evidently was to contribute blood and guts to an anemic story line, but it doesn't work. What does? Well, the novel is authentic in its celebration of dedicated musicians, now gone; its nostalgia is heartfelt. The plotting, though, is ramshackle. The mystery of Saro's disappearance is solved in a way that's both lurid and anticlimactic, while Cyrus is overwhelmed by the same trippy visions that had plagued his mother—malevolent hog-eyed men, an authorial indulgence.

Glib fatalism and self-conscious prose obscure a potential talent.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452296787
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/25/2011
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A compelling and insightful depiction of not just the land and what haunts it, but of human desire . . . Stephens has made this part of the Ozarks an underdog we can get behind and root for. It resonates out of the pages like an old folk song."
-Noah Homola, The Kansas City Star

"Miss Me When I'm Gone is a lavishly written, vividly imagined, and wholly compelling work of fiction. Philip Stephens has an unfailing ear for the rhythms (and subtle treacheries) of human speech, which gives this book its unusual immediacy and power, as if the reader is eavesdropping on the life-or- death conversations of travelers on a train. I was spellbound. Often, in fact, I was in awe."
-Tim O'Brien

"A melodic, heart-aching read."
-Oxford American

"Lost and living by their wits, Philip Stephens' wise and foolish people drift along the hardscrabble edges of America, some trying to escape the past, some to reclaim it. Miss Me When I'm Gone mixes the barbed language of Denis Johnson with the eternal verities of roots music. This is a rich and beautiful debut."
-Stewart O'Nan

"Philip Stephens is an uncommon writer: lyrical, frank, gothic by turns, his prose draws us into uncharted worlds and minds. He transforms small-town Missouri into a mythical landscape, peopled by lonely misfits of Faulknerian proportions. Miss Me When I'm Gone is a novel you will never forget."
-Claire Messud

"[A] many-layered, spirited debut . . . Stephens' voice has the clarity of an aged banjo, and resonates like a catchy sing-along."
-Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

"Philip Stephens knows a lot-about music, religion, the great midwest, life in a small town. What he knows the most about, however, is the plain old human heart. At various times throughout this elegant, moving first novel, he wrote scenes that broke mine, because I had come to care so much for the people I found in these pages. Stephens is a special writer, and this is a special book. I was sorry when it ended."
-Steve Yarbrough "[In] Philip Stephens's rich debut novel . . . the magic realism of Garcia Marquez or a Vargas Llosa operates in a setting that evokes Twain, Faulkner, and O'Connor . . . in a river of song flowing beneath the Ozarks."
-Michael Ray Taylor, Chapter 16

"A gripping novel . . . speckled with colorful and amusing characters that add levity even as they propel the story . . . I recommend Miss Me When I'm Gone to anyone who is unafraid of facing an honest story that takes you deep into the world of struggling musicians, desperate mothers, meth addicts, sinful preachers, and an array of successes and failures that make up the realistic characters Stephens has created."
-Michael Carey, Neworld Review

Acclaim for The Determined Days: Poems by Philip Stephens

"Stephens has a realist fiction writer's flair for scene, speech, and character, and the incidents in his poems are as all-to-humanly true as those in a good John O'Hara short story...An excellent first collection."
-Booklist

"Read as a whole-as they should be-the cumulative effect of this truly accomplished collection is powerful, disturbing, and authoritative. I am filled with admiration for Mr. Stephens's work."
-Anthony Hecht

"A poet for the people, an accessible writer whose work fuses the beauty of Robert Frost with the conviction of Walt Whitman."
-Kansas City Star

Meet the Author

Philip Stephens is the author of the poetry collection The Determined Days, which was a finalist for the PEN Center USA West Literary Award. His work as appeared in The Oxford American, Southwest Review, and Bomb, among other publications, as well as in Da Capo Best Music Writing 2004. He lives with his wife and sons in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Miss Me When I'm Gone 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cant wait for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slightly a little worse from the beginning, and you couldve made it longer. Can you check out my story at 'evolved' if you havent or have the chance?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My story, like many, begins in highschool. Dont worry. This is not THAT kindof story. It was last minutes of the day, hen the teacher still thought she could cram some last minute knowledge into our brains though no one paid attention. But who would? There was only twp minutes before the bell rang, announcing sumer break with their music. I had plans, as did everyone else. I would go to parties, see friends, and hang out in the woods to practice on my guitar. Life was good. Simple. If only i had known how easily that would change. When the bell finnally did ring, the people crowded out, each a blur of facial features and cloths. A boy i hardly knew, but was very handsome came up to when everyone had gone. "Hey Rose." He had said. He was about to say more before he scurried off, almost looking...afraid? Weird. Now remember this boy he would be important. Without paying it much mind i went home, had a snack and went to the clearing. Oh if hadnt gone to that small section in the woods, this might never had hapened. But i did. So it did. If only i had known what tragic adventure was to pass. Because it was starting, oh it was starting.