cover image The Presence of Absence

The Presence of Absence

Simon Van Booy. Godine, $24.95 (184p) ISBN 978-1-56792-744-3

Dying and acceptance are explored in this inventive and moving story of a man with a terminal illness by Van Booy (Night Came with Many Stars). Max Little, a writer, grapples with telling his wife Hadley about his being diagnosed with an unspecified rare disease. He also contemplates suicide, only to realize the act would hurt Hadley even more. Max’s reflections come in the form of short journal entries written in his hospital bed, framed with a prologue in which Van Booy claims to have received the journal from Hadley, and decided to expand it into a novel after Max’s publisher deemed it too fragmented. Each entry, sparked by “the drunk librarian of memory,” is rich in setting and emotion. Max takes readers to the playground where he first met Hadley and to a therapist’s waiting room where he befriended Jeremy, who is often at his bedside and becomes close with Hadley as well. The second section, written by Van Booy’s author character, begins with quotidian scenes of a young girl and her parents living in New Jersey, which end up linking beautifully to Max’s journal. As ever with Van Booy, the reader is in good hands. (Nov.)