A heartbreaking, life-affirming, incredibly moving literary novel
BEFORE YOU GO
by Tommy Butler
Harper, June 2020
The bulk of the book follows protagonist Elliot from 8 to 80 as he lives his life, struggling with depression, finding solace in the friends he makes in a suicide prevention group, and ultimately finding love. But there’s a playful portion of the book, “the vignettes,” a sort of science-fiction description of the creation of humankind, by creatures more alien than God-like. In the opening 7 pages, the vignette describes how humans were created perfectly except for an empty space next to the heart, which humans will then try to fill with meaningless things for the rest of their lives. The main characters are Elliot, who even as a boy doesn’t feel at home in the world, and his close friends from the suicide prevention group: Sasha, a drifting soul who leaves coded messages in the copy she writes for advertising campaigns, and Bannor, whose detailed descriptions of the future make Elliot think that maybe he has really been there. With these two unlikely allies, Elliot launches into the business of life, determined to be happy in spite of himself. Yet a hole in your heart is not so easily filled.
Tommy Butler has been a Peter Taylor Fellow at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. He’s a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School; his fiction has appeared in Oxford Magazine and he won the Short Fiction Award from Reflections Literary Journal.