A wife and mother goes missing, and a family is forced to reassess both the past and the future.
Call it Gone Woman. The morning after a bad argument with her husband, Lovell, a climate scientist, 39-year-old Hannah Hall disappears on her way to work. When some of her possessions and then pieces of bone are found on a South Boston beach, it gets progressively harder for Lovell and their two children, 15-year-old Janine and 8-year-old Ethan, to fend off their fears for her safety. These are the scant plot points of Best American Short Stories series editor Pitlor’s second novel (The Birthdays, 2006), and they're augmented by flashbacks, character studies, and descriptions of the family's struggles to cope with Hannah's disappearance and the media's interest in it. Originally from a wealthy Martha’s Vineyard family, Hannah emerges as unfulfilled and naïve, still yearning at some romantic fantasy level for Doug, the handsome boy to whom she was originally engaged before he revealed his faithlessness. Lovell, from a semirural background in Maine, now wholly immersed in his work, couldn’t believe his luck when Hannah accepted his proposal—“She was light years out of his league”—but that was before the marriage turned sexless and sour. A pall of unhappiness hangs over the story as the weaknesses of the marriage, Hannah’s equivocal feelings, and the doomed nature of events (gradually revealed in chapters narrated from Hannah’s point of view on that fateful day) are examined. While Lovell is a gloomy central character and Janine is insolent and disdainful in her teenage distress, Pitlor lays a closing gleam of compassion over them all.
A technically accomplished but largely downbeat tale of miserable people learning life lessons late.