When high school senior Penelope moves to a very small town in Eastern California after the death of her mother, Theresa, she finds a haunted landscape to match her inner world. Her punk-rock musician crush next door struggles with his oxycontin addiction, her aunt Josephine gives her a box of her mother’s dolls that turns out to be full of rats, and a hormonally charged Halloween party sets off an earthquake. Josephine, mourning the loss of her older sister, and faced with taking care of her teenaged niece, struggles to keep afloat when, inside, she still feels like a teenager herself. Her finances are in ruins, her house is falling apart, and an ill-advised grief-fueled hookup with her high school boyfriend -- now married, now the town mayor -- ends in broken friendships. In the ghost town next door, Jim, a brilliant man whose academic potential was cut off due to the onset of mental illness, wanders the streets and sleeps in the tumbledown buildings, communing with ghosts until he dies in the Halloween earthquake, and becomes a ghost himself. And 30 years in the past, Jim and Theresa prepare to say goodbye as they leave their small town behind and head towards the bright futures which they hope await them in the outside world. Amidst frightening ghostly manifestations, awkward sexual adventures, and small town life, Penelope and Josephine must find a way to connect with each other and articulate their heartache. Erin Courtney’s I Will Be Gone is a tender, awkward, authentically sorrowful, and deeply funny exploration of life after loss.
I Will Be Gone guide sections