A big, rich, life-affirming debut that explores the most perplexing questions of existence: purpose, the pain of loneliness, the desire for happiness, and the price we pay as we search for fulfillment.
BEFORE YOU GO
by Tommy Butler
Harper, August 2020
In the Before, humankind is created with a hole in its heart, the designers not realizing their mistake—if it was a mistake—until too late. Elliot Chance is just a boy, and knows nothing of this. All he knows is that he doesn’t feel at home in this world, and his desire for escape becomes more urgent as he grows into adulthood, where the turbulence of life seems to offer no cure for the emptiness. Desperate and lost, he stumbles upon a support group on the edge of Manhattan. There he meets two other drifting souls—Sasha, a young woman who leaves coded messages in the copy she writes for advertising campaigns, and Bannor, whose detailed depictions of the future make Elliot think he may have actually been there. With these two unlikely allies, Elliot launches into the business of life, determined to be happy in spite of himself. Yet the hole in the heart is not so easily filled. Profound yet playful, BEFORE YOU GO is a beautiful, imaginative journey into the ache and wonder of being human, and the quest for a meaningful life.
“Butler brilliantly imagines the creation of human life, and the toll its imperfection takes on Elliot, a Gen-X man from Connecticut, in this dazzling debut…beautiful, heart-wrenching prose…Butler’s treatise on the value of life with all its moments of darkness and light leaves the reader with aching gratitude for their existence.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Alluring. Magical. And painfully real. Will make your heart ache in all the right ways. A triumph for all of us who’ve suspected there’s something missing deep within.” —Matthew Quick, bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook and The Reason You’re Alive
“Hats off to that brave soul daring to write what might be called speculative literary fiction, and willing to venture answers to questions beyond even those of life & death. Tommy Butler’s debut novel Before You Go has a big beating heart and a mind all its own.” —Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party and Then We Came to the End
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. He runs a small law practice when he’s not writing.