“Miss You” was Kate Eberlen’s debut novel in 2017. It is about Tess and Gus who meet each other for a few brief moments as eighteen year olds on vacation in the same city in Italy. They both go on to lead their own, separate and complicated lives for the next sixteen years.
The book alternates chapters between each of their points of view. Gus goes through different relationships and the milestones of getting married, having two children and then getting divorced years later. Tess single-handedly raises her sister Hope, who has Asperger’s, after they lose their mother to cancer.
Predictably, they end up meeting 16 years after their first encounter and finally connect after many near misses.
The beauty of their story is not in their meeting 16 years later. It is in the living of their lives during those 16 years.
Gus is deeply plagued with the guilt from not having been able to stop his brother from going skiing on the day of his fatal accident. He carries a deep seeded sense of low self worth with him through every relationship as a result – never quite connecting deeply with others and never taking the time to do the work to truly find himself and what is right for him. He chooses the career his parents expect him to and seems to plod along, lost and doing what is expected of him.
Tess, similarly, never quite spreads her wings and flies either. She gives up her dream of going to college when her mother dies and focuses on raising Hope while working on an assortment of careers that aren’t really the right fit for her.
This book reminds us all that it is all too easy to get completely mired in what we’re supposed to do and not give wings to dreams and aspirations, especially as we get older. We all start out with a fresh slate and then real life takes over.
Sixteen years after their initial meeting (and towards the end of the book!), it takes prompting from both of their friends for them to get out of their stale routines and take a step forward toward their original dreams. Then, finally, they meet again in Italy.
This isn’t quite the light, vacation read if you’re looking for that. It is a thoughtful, heart warming book that can leave the reader a little frustrated with the characters for not finding themselves sooner. Yet we also leave with the feeling that Gus and Tess are immensely relatable with all their flaws and that their lives are incredibly messy, just like all of ours are, most of the time.