Reviews: The Absent Woman

A novel to be remembered

The Absent Woman is the story of Virginia Johnstone, who, in search of herself, has left her husband, her two young children, and her safe, comfortable, boringly conventional life, and has driven from her Seattle home to a small coastal town where she moves into an old, ramshackle hotel.

The theme of the discontented runaway wife has been put to novelistic use again and again, but The Absent Woman is fresh, original, compelling—a book wonderfully written, clear, deft, specific, while at the same time beautifully poetic, not only in its descriptions of nature, but of small, often overlooked things.

Virginia has an observant eye.  The people she meets, some of whom become of great importance to her, are brought to keenest life, as are her thoughts, her fears and hopes in this new milieu.  It is a book often painful in her unflinchingly honest self-searchings.  It is also very moving, never sentimental, in the deepness and compassion of her feelings.  And it is funny as well, given her observant eye and unique dry humor.

It is a novel for all seasons, a novel about life in all its loveliness and anguish, a novel to be remembered.

 Ella Leffland, author of Rumours of Peace, Knight, Death, and The Devil, Mrs. Munck, etc.


 Psychologically astute debut novel

In Marlene Lee’s psychologically astute debut, THE ABSENT WOMAN, Virginia Johnstone finds herself straining against the limitations of her existence as a comfortable suburban wife and mother. She leaves her husband and her boys to embark on a sometimes exhilarating, sometimes excruciating, and always compelling journey of self-examination. In lucid prose, Lee tells a marvelous story with echoes of Kate Chopin’s THE AWAKENING.

Keija Parssinen, author of The Ruins of Us.


A very brave book

Lee writes quite beautifully, with grace and wit and precision.  I thought it was a very brave book, and very honest.  Virginia’s feelings about leaving her boys were especially resonant.  And she writes about music wonderfully. The book will stay with me for a long time.

 Alex George, author of  ‘A Good American’.

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