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I maintain a steady diet of literary fiction, and was sniffing around Nobody Is Ever Missing long before I got it in my head to review it. Expectations being what they are, I was completely sucked into the story, and had no idea that I would get so wrapped up in this girl Elyria (Dwight Garner, if you’re reading this, she is not like the heroine of Play it as it Lays, or is this book like the much praised, Speed Boat of last year.) This is a slow, car crash novel, and for some reason the speed in which it moves is merciless, deceptive and you will not put this book down easily.

Elyria comes to you in a daydream, a pretty girl listening to music only she can hear. What is the most important thing about her? She is running from her recent past, a mashed potato existence in NYC. She makes a living writing soap operas, and is married to a math wizard who might be on the autism spectrum, and is a few years her senior. So Elyria decides to do the easiest thing possible. Disappear. As the title goes, that is hard to do.

She is followed closely by her past, even though she has walked out on it. Her adopted sister has left this world, taking her own life. This leaves Elyria alone, or more alone in a surreal experience that is formed by her loneliness. It is tough to qualify a life if you don’t engage with it, and Ms. Lacey does a wonderful job of keeping Elyria away from people. When she does run across someone, there are moments of flurry, some work, or just conversation. The device for this trick is to keep Elyria moving towards a poet she once met at a reading. He lives in New Zealand. I have longed to travel there, and it is in this moment that you will recognize another strong female literary character that was created by Vendela Vida in Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name. I had the same reaction to that that book; a story of a woman trying to find where she came from. Ms. Lacey is a literary half sister to Ms. Vida, I’m sure, and with Nobody Is Ever Missing, it is very hard not to think how much of a big deal her next book will be. After the poet has his way with Elyria, we’re treated to an abrupt right siding of the story, and you can only look on helplessly as the narrative slowly spirals down the drain. Woven in is a mother that is less than helpful, (when Mom pops out of a box at Christmas, it’s a frame worthy flashback), and Elyria’s husband the Math guy is a useless worn out roll of linoleum curling at the edges. Then again, this is a novel about a depressed woman. Ms. Lacey doesn’t just lean on that feeling of numbness, but she blows right past it. Elyria occupies a space where there is no feeling, and that is a feeling. It is both wonderful and odd to read about a woman who has pushed past the corners of contemporary society, found nothing, felt even less.

What is even better? Ms. Lacey makes this journey both memorable and acutely painful. Elyria is constantly warned not to hitchhike in New Zealand, yet she does. Then stumbles on more lost souls who have found a solace in being lost. Elyria runs out of planet, and has no choice but to turn back around and face her past. But does she need to return to it? Or just give up and forge ahead? Wherever Elyria goes she will find more loneliness. Her life was filled with people that either wore her down, or were already so worn out that there was nothing engaging left. There are enormous passages in this book where the reader gets comfortably discombobulated by these emotions, the husband, mom, the sister and how they all fall together like pieces of string to short to use.

It is hard to say that this is a magical experience, because I don’t believe in that sort of thing. I will say that this is a story that will hang on you for a long time after you close the book. It resonates, but does not do it in the way you think it would, or should. I did not know what to expect with this book, but feel strongly about it now. Nobody is Ever Missing is a great treat, and should be read by anyone that can stand up.