When Catherine Lacey released her novel Nobody is Ever Missing in 2014, readers took notice. If you read even a line of Lacey's arresting prose, it was almost impossible not to want to zoom through the rest — her voice is original, captivating, and swallows you from the second you dig in. (And it seems as though awards committees have noticed, too; Lacey has snagged a nod for the 2015 NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, which comes as no surprise to anyone who's read the book.)
Although literally a travel novel — Lacey's Elyra races off to New Zealand with neither a direction nor an agenda — Nobody is Ever Missing is about going away to somewhere far-flung inside yourself, too. It's a powerful novel about searching for your identity in far away places despite knowing, deep down, that there might not be anything left to find.
We're all a little lost sometimes; it's only natural. But, as Lacey points out, nobody is ever truly missing, because you're never missing to yourself. If you finished the novel and went immediately in search of more Lacey, you're going to come up pretty shortchanged (bummer!). But here's another alternative. If you liked Nobody Is Ever Missing because of the beautiful writing, Elyria's sense of fearless adventure, or enjoy somewhat melancholy books about women on a tireless search for happiness and meaning, give one of these 12 books a try instead.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
A woman battles infidelity, the desire to create, and bed bugs in Brooklyn in Jenny Offill's wonderful short novel. As the narrator grows more and more uncertain of her place in her small family, she feels herself growing emotionally and physically distant as the days pass. An intimate look at marriage and relationships and the ways they impact us, much like Nobody is Ever Missing.
Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce
As the unlit neon lights of the cover might suggest, Love Me Back is nothing close to a love story in the traditional sense. Marie struggles to come to terms with her life after a pregnancy at a young age leave her with little to no regard for herself. Her actions walk a thin line between reckless and self destructive, in Merritt Tierce's incredibly honest, gritty novel.
The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
Nell Zink's creitically acclaimed novel is another story involving love, marriage, and infidelity, but it so much more than that. An American couple moves to Europe and become, basically, eco-terrorists. The Wallcreeper is unique; a new take on the story of heartbreak and infidelity that has been and will continue to be told again and again. The writing and the storyline are perfect for fans of Catherine Lacey's work.
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
In Nobody is Ever Missing, Elyria cannot get a grip on her life and her past. She can't seem to compartmentalize it and move on like other people can. So she runs. That instinct to run and never come back is the main premise of Evie Wyld's All the Birds, Singing, too. Jake lives on a remote island, tending sheep, alone with her thoughts. It's safer this way, no one to ask questions. If fictional walls could come down, I think Jake and Elyria would be friends in a way. If you liked the running away, remote island part of Nobody is Ever Missing, this is the one for you.
Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
Happiness, Like Water is a collection about of Nigerian women both at home in Nigeria and relocated to the United States. As these women try to make sense of their new lives as mothers and wives in a new country, the reader sees the struggles that need to be overcome, and the emotions that come along with a major life change such as this. If the introspective aspect of Nobody is Ever MIssing spoke to you, this is another great use of writing to show the human condition.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
If the idea of tucking your real life aside for a while and leaving everything you know behind to find yourself seems a little far fetched to you, Wild is the perfect nonfiction companion read. Cheryl Strayed lost her mother and divorced her husband all by the age of 22, and when she could no longer handle that loss, set off for the Pacific Crest Trail to recover the pieces of herself that she'd lost, the same way Elyria goes to New Zealand.
Green Girl by Kate Zambreno
How we appear to others is something all women have to deal with at some point or another, and Kate Zambreno captures that reality in her 2014 novel, Green Girl. Ruth is American but lives in London, constantly attracting attention she doesn't necessarily want. She thinks humans are empty, and struggles throughout the book to understand her place as a person among them. The perfect read for girls and young women who aren't sure how they're supposed to feel, Green Girl is also a great follow up to Nobody is Ever Missing.
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Just as Elyria must face the loss of her adopted sister Ruby in Nobody is Ever Missing, the narrator of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is struggling to come to terms with her brother's childhood brain tumor. The things we experience when we're young don't always go away quietly, and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing and Nobody is Ever Missing both force readers to come face to face with that fact.
Nevada by Imogen Binnie
Maria Griffiths is a young woman, a trans identified person living in New York City, trying to make her way in the world. When the life and relationships she once believed in begin to unravel around her, Maria sets out on a journey of self discovery that will change her forever, similar to the journey Elyria takes in Nobody is Ever Missing.
The Summer We Got Free by Mia Mackenzie
Ava Delaney experiences violence by the hands of her own family, and becomes ostracized within her neighborhood, where she is still forced to live. The Delaneys, who were once well loved and respected within their church community, begin a decades long feud with them. A visit from a strange woman brings out the passionate artist that Ava used to be, even as she drags up all of the memories she's tried for so long to conceal. Like Nobody is Ever Missing, The Summer We Got Free is the story of the ways even strangers can bring us back to life.
Binary Star by Sarah Gerard
A twentysomething woman sets out for a road trip with her long distance boyfriend, trying to bring them closer together. The nameless narrator is battling anorexia, constantly comparing herself to the stars and galaxies in the solar system. She wants to become closer to nothing, to disappear completely. Where in Nobody is Ever Missing, Elyria wants to be "missing" forever, the narrator in Binary Star simply wants to become less and less until she is gone.
Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
In Maxine Beneba Clarke' short story collection she explores the voices of the downtrodden and the hopeless, much like Catherine Lacey does within the pages of Nobody is Ever Missing. No matter what happens, though, the people in Clarke's world continue on. They keep trying even when they know they should give up, not letting life get the best of them, something Elyria herself would have admired.