Without telling her family, Elyria takes a one-way flight to New Zealand, abruptly leaving her stable life in Manhattan, her home, her career and her loving husband. As the people she has left behind scramble to figure out what has happened to her, Elyria embarks on a hitchhiker’s odyssey, testing fate by travelling in the cars of overly kind women and deeply strange men, tacitly being swept into the lives of strangers, and sleeping in fields, forests, and public parks. As she journeys from Wellington to Picton, Takaka, Kaikoura and onwards she asks herself, what is it that I am missing? How can a person be missing?
Full of mordant humour and uncanny insights, Nobody Is Ever Missing is a startling tale of love, loss, and the dangers encountered in the search for self-knowledge. It is a novel which goes far beyond the story of a physical journey and asks what it means to be human, to be a woman, and to be at the mercy of forces beyond one’s own control.
Read if you loved: Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Catherine Lacey Biography
Catherine Lacey is the author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award and picked as a ‘Book of the Year’ in the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
Her short fiction and essays have been published in McSweeney’s, The Believer, the Atlantic, 52 Stories and Brooklyn Magazine.
She was named a Granta New Voice in 2014, awarded an Artist’s Fellowship from NYFA in 2012, and has taught in the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University.
Her second novel and a collection of short stories are both forthcoming from Granta Books.
Catherine Lacey on the Inspiration Behind Nobody is Ever Missing
This book was an accident, a wrong turn, a procrastination. I backed into it, I suppose, or fell into it trying to get somewhere else.
After finishing graduate school I used some of the money from donating my eggs (yes, weird, I know) to buy a plane ticket to New Zealand. I was tired of writing hand-wringing essays about topics I didn’t really understand and thought if I worked on a few organic farms I might gain enough experience to begin writing about food politics. Or this was my excuse, anyway.
I spent almost three months there, hitch-hiking around with all the other drifters. I met all sorts of people, worked on a few farms and vineyards but I didn’t actually learn whatever it was I’d been hoping to learn and I came back to New York as confused as I was when I left, trying to figure out what I was going to do next. My essays and pitches were landing no where. By then I knew I hadn’t gone to New Zealand to learn about agriculture. I’d gone there to go there.
New York felt even bigger and louder and more expensive than I remembered. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone had an iPhone and was staring at it. I worked exhausting jobs I didn’t like and fantasized about donating my eggs again to go to New Zealand again, a place where I had no phone, no job, no bills, no home. I could comfortably do nothing there, I thought. Instead, I started writing short stories set there so I had an excuse for clicking through the Google Maps images of the places I’d been.
About two years went by like this, all my pitches and essays getting rejected and all my early morning hours spent writing these weird little stories that eventually started to hang together as a…. thing. (I was hesitant to call it a novel. Novel writing had never been an ambition of mine.) At the same time I had co-founded a cooperative bed and breakfast, which a whole other story I’ve written about elsewhere, but it basically meant that I had a lot of time on my hands.
So this is how the novel came to be. A desperate, lonely person had too much time on her hands and longed to be elsewhere. So she went.