We’re All Missing

A brief review of Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey.

While I did enjoy this very short novel, it is not the sort of work I usually read. It’s a stream of consciousness that consists of what is essentially a long extended contemplation/whinge on the oppressiveness of simply being, told through sometimes-poetic string of run-on sentences by the narrator, Elyria. Though as noted I did like the work, if it had been any longer than it’s brief 150 pages or so I wouldn’t have continued. The narrator is extremely self-focused (though observant), more than a bit annoying, and repetitive.

I understand that this is intentional and that it is for effect. The effect is admirably and fully achieved and if the work had been even 20 pages longer I would not have continued onward. The narrator, as in most of these sorts of novels, learns nothing and is little-changed by her experiences and her extended whinge-fest.

Perhaps all this is uncomfortably like real life, which is of course part of the point of the novel. I understood the character and identified with her, even. She made sense to me. She’s well-drawn and seems like one of those people you see all the time, just mooning through life, barely existing, so much so that you’re unsure what motivates them to continue. They look and sound like they will soon deflate like a cheap supermarket balloon.

With nods to Camus and even David Foster Wallace, the work is an achievement by a clearly-talented writer, yet the narrator is so unpleasant and her worldview so hopeless that it’s like occupying the being of a depressive immersively. You at times wish the narrator would just get it over with and drown herself in the ocean.

However (non-spoiler alert), she never does, never learns anything nor changes, but rather continues to creep along the floor of life listlessly like that partially-deflated supermarket balloon.