Nobody Is Ever Missing

A Novel

Catherine Lacey

FSG Originals

Without telling her family, Elyria takes a one-way flight to New Zealand, abruptly leaving her stable but unfulfilling life in Manhattan. As her husband scrambles to figure out what happened to her, Elyria hurtles into the unknown, testing fate by hitchhiking, tacitly being swept into the lives of strangers, and sleeping in fields, forests, and public parks.
     Her risky and often surreal encounters with the people and wildlife of New Zealand propel Elyria deeper into her deteriorating mind. Haunted by her sister’s death and consumed by an inner violence, her growing rage remains so expertly concealed that those who meet her sense nothing unwell. This discord between her inner and outer reality leads her to another obsession: If her truest self is invisible and unknowable to others, is she even alive?
     The risks Elyria takes on her journey are paralleled by the risks Catherine Lacey takes on the page. In urgent, spiraling prose she whittles away at the rage within Elyria and exposes the very real, very knowable anxiety of the human condition. And yet somehow Lacey manages to poke fun at her unrelenting self-consciousness, her high-stakes search for the dark heart of the self. In the spirit of Haruki Murakami and Amelia Gray, Nobody Is Ever Missing is full of mordant humor and uncanny insights, as Elyria waffles between obsession and numbness in the face of love, loss, danger, and self-knowledge.


Read an Excerpt



There might be people in this world who can read minds against their will and if that kind of person exists I am pretty sure my husband is one of them. I think this because of what happened the week I knew I’d be leaving soon, but he didn’t know; I knew I needed to tell him this but I couldn’t imagine any possible way to get my mouth to make those words, and since my husband can unintentionally read minds, he drank a good deal more than usual that week, jars of gin mostly, but tall beers from the deli, too. He’d walk in sipping a can hidden in a paper



Praise for Nobody Is Ever Missing

"Ms. Lacey has written a serious, frequently brilliant novel with a sustained intensity that is rare in fiction. It's the most promising first novel that I've encountered this year." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“[A] searching, emotionally resonant first novel…[Lacey’s prose is] dreamy and fierce at the same time…Ms. Lacey’s slim novel impressed me, and held me to my chair. There’s significant talent at work here…“Nobody Is Ever Missing” gets so much right that you easily push past its small flaws. It’s an aching portrait of a young woman doing the hard thing, “trying to think clearly about mixed feelings.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"The premise begins simply enough: Elyria has unexpectedly left her husband. And yet the proceeding narrative introduces some of contemporary fiction’s most complex personal introspection as Catherine Lacey—with the ease of a master—depicts a mind that may, or may not, be breaking down . . . Elyria hitchhikes, meets a handful of characters and thinks. And her ponderings—written in Lacey’s consistently remarkable, urgent prose style—slowly unravel the layers of Elyria’s discontent, revealing an expanse of universal anxiety and uncertainty. Her observations of the country and her ruminations on the past are simultaneously childlike in their wonder and astounding in their depth. Page after page, the novel strikes those rarely accomplished balances between action and interiority, comedy and bleakness, stream-of-consciousness and clarity. An uncomplicated plot written with honesty and linguistic deftness characterizes many of the world’s great novels, including this debut. As the story concludes, Lacey does not assert any sense of closure because there are no lessons here, only a stunning portrait of, to paraphrase Doris Lessing, a woman going mad all by herself." —Tiffany Gibert, Time Out New York

"Lacey’s wise and dazzling novel... is funny, not in a zany way, but in the audaciously morbid way a Coen brothers picture is funny." —Jennifer B. McDonald, Slate "[A] laser smart, affecting, confounding, recalcitrant, infuriating, relentlessly stylish debut novel . . . Using short chapters to stop for breath, Lacey stacks clause upon clause with unerring rhythm, one of those glorious gifts that not everyone's been given and guided by that fabulous inner ear she teases out assonances and upends predictable constructions, modulating her phrases with repetitions, inversions, and tautly-strung wit, the novel propelled by sentences that wind their way inward before springing back out with renewed velocity." —Nathan Huffstutter, Electric Literature

"Catherine Lacey's debut novel explores that deeply human question... She holds the reader rapt for 244 pages, vividly situating us—entrapping us, really." Laura Pearson, Chicago Tribune

"As harrowing as it is magnetic." —Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland

"Catherine Lacey's virtuosic debut is a gutsy, lyric meditation on identity, love, transformation, and what it means to be free. It is a breathtakingly accomplished novel, and Catherine Lacey is a riveting new voice in contemporary fiction." —Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth

"A dense, subtle series of meditations on domestication, estrangement, wildness, and above all, loss and absence." —David Shields, author of How Literature Saved My Life and coauthor of Salinger

"Catherine Lacey has a magic voice like none I’ve ever read before. An unknown cousin of both David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Nobody Is Ever Missing is a fabulously intelligent and witty book, and also a very moving one." —Rivka Galchen, author of American Innovations

"This book lives and breathes. It is a squall and Catherine Lacey is a force." —Amelia Gray, author of Threats

"A dark, precise jewel of a novel that does what every piece of writing should: cast a subtly new light on the world around us." —John Wray, author of Lowboy

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Catherine Lacey

  • Catherine Lacey is the recipient of a 2012 New York Foundation for the Arts Artists’ Fellowship in Fiction Writing. She has published stories and nonfiction in McSweeney’sBeliever, The Atlantic, 52 Stories, and The Paris Review. In 2010 she cofounded 3B, a cooperative bed and breakfast in Brooklyn, New York. She earned an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University and a BA from Loyola University in New Orleans.

  • Catherine Lacey © Lauren Volo
    Catherine Lacey


Available Formats and Book Details

Nobody Is Ever Missing

A Novel

Catherine Lacey